Avoiding The Summer Slide

Summer is coming.  We can’t wait for vacations and more free time!  We are looking forward to long days and warm nights.  Our kids yearn for the freedom of no school!  However, as parents, we should be thinking about the “Summer Slide”.  The “Summer Slide” (or slump) refers to the forgetting of what kids learned in school.  Since summer is so full of fun, activity and leisure, Reading and Math skills take a back seat.  The progress made in the previous school year begins to slide back a bit.  However, there are some things we can do to help keep our kids from sliding back!

 

1. Keep a summer routine.

Sure, you may not need to wake up as early as you would during the school year, but routines are important.  Kids thrive in a setting where they know what to expect and what is expected of them.  So keep a calendar of things you will be doing, and keep a regular morning routine.  This will help their minds be settled in knowing what is to come, and they can better focus on other tasks.  And while summer bedtimes might be pushed later, it is also important to keep a set bedtime so that kids get enough sleep.

 

2. Read daily!

Reading is so important!!! Even reading aloud to your child (reader or non) can help to develop their vocabulary.  So join a summer reading program through your local library.  Read a story before bed every night.  Give your kid a blanket or hammock that they can use to read outside.  I have made a deal with my eight year old that he can stay up as late as he wants during the summer (as long as we don’t have plans the next day) as long as he is reading.

 

3. Write daily.

Reading and writing go hand in hand.  Even though it is summer, kids should be practicing their fine motor skills as well.  Maybe you buy a notebook for your child so that they can keep a little summer journal.  Or for beginners, have them practice writing their names in chalk or on postcards. Have your kids write your grocery list, to-do list, or calendar.  Practicing writing will allow their skills to improve rather than slide.

 

4. Use Math often!!

Help your child run a lemonade stand so they can use and count money.  Give them a budget for shopping for souvenirs so they can add up and count their money.  Have them help you cook. Measuring ingredients is a fun Math activity.  And for older kids, you can ask them to help you double or half a recipe (fraction addition). With younger kids, simply counting things can help them.  Count the cookies you give them for snack.  Count the number of blue cars you see driving by.  You can also do simple addition with toys, “You have 3 LEGOS, but how many will you have if I give you one more?”  Math can easily be worked into your daily activities.

 

5. Keep their curiosity engaged!

Kids love to learn in a hands on way.  Playing is learning, and while free play is super important, so is some structured play.  Science experiments can be fun, engaging and educational! And it doesn’t have to be a big production.  A volcano or rocket experiment can be done with just a plastic bottle, baking soda, and vinegar.  Even a simple slime recipe can be turned into a lesson about absorption and chemical reaction!  You can find every day experiments all over the internet, or you could subscribe to a science box and get a new batch of experiments sent to you every month of the summer!!

 

Summer should be a time for freedom and fun, but we can’t be letting our kids completely slide back on the skills they worked so hard to develop.  Keep them learning and growing all summer long!!

What I Want My Kids To Know

As parents, we spend every second of our lives teaching lessons.  We teach manners, actions, and words.  We teach concepts and creativity, independence and attitude.  But in the everyday routine of it all, sometimes I feel like I have forgotten some things.  So here is what I want my kids to know above all else.

 

1. Always choose to be kind.

Your words and actions have an impact on everyone around you.  If you are kind, you can help brighten someone’s day. Kindness spreads like fire, so be that spark that sets off a blaze of kindness. I see your actions at home; I see how you help your brother, and think of nice ways to make him happy.  This fills my heart with so much pride, love and happiness!  I know that you are well on your way to being a kind, caring adult. Just remember to always choose kindness.

 

2. You have a voice.

Your thoughts and feelings matter, so use your voice to express yourself!  Share your opinions, stand up for what you believe in, and be true to yourself.  If you don’t like someone hugging you, tell them not to.  If you want more of something, ask for it.  If you have a question, ask for an answer.  Your voice is your tool for communicating everything about you, so speak confidently.

 

3. Never stop learning.

Keep your curiosity about the world around you strong.  Science and technology are forever advancing, bringing us new information.  Keep your mind sharp, and yourself open to new information, even if it challenges something you think you already know.  Just remember, there is always someone else who knows more than you do, so never miss an opportunity to learn.

 

4. You will never be alone.

Besides your dad and I, you are surrounded by people who love and support you unconditionally.  Your extended family is large and full of love for you.  Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will always be near (or at least a phone call away).  If you are going through a tough time, and need someone to listen to you, all you have to do is ask.  We all love you so much, and will always be here for you.

5. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

There is enough negativity in the world, so don’t bring more of it onto yourself.  Try new things, and don’t be afraid to be bad at them.  If it’s something you enjoy, work hard to get it right.  Go for your dreams without fear of failure; failure is a part of life.  Being positive and learning to work through your failures and mistakes is what makes us grow and leads us to success. Know you can achieve anything that you work hard for.

6. Your hugs mean everything to me.

As you are getting older, the time of snuggles is slipping away.  You no longer wish to be held in my arms while you fall asleep, and that’s just a part of life.  But when you come up to me, and wrap your arms around me, my heart just fills up!!  I love you so much, more than you will ever know until you have your own kids.  I admire the person you are growing up to be. I respect the need for distance as you grow. But I adore the five seconds you take out of your day to give me a hug.

Let Them Fail

We’ve all heard of the different types of parenting (gentle, tiger, and helicopter parents).   But there is a new type that is gaining more and more attention. This would be the snowplow (or bulldozer) parent.  These parents to anything and everything in their power to clear any and all obstacles from their child’s road of life.  This includes (but is not limited to) the recent celebrity college scandal where several celebrities have been caught bribing admissions of Ivy League schools, or paying off test takers in order for their children to get into a top-notch school. The celebrity scandal is much about the ability of the rich to pay to get anything they want, but it is also indicative of this snowplow parenting trend.  Parents don’t want their kids to fail.  And while the reasoning is understandable, what parents aren’t understanding is that KIDS NEED TO FAIL.

 

Failure is what teaches so many life lessons:

-How to deal with the emotions of disappointment.

-How to find the gumption and determination to try again.

-Critical thinking and self-evaluation skills to try a new approach.

-Perseverance through failure after failure.

-It fuels desire and drive to improve and accomplish.

-How to be ok with delayed gratification.

-Hard work is necessary to succeed.

Then, after failing and trying again (and again), when your child succeeds at something ON THEIR OWN, they will learn pride.  When parents clear their child’s path of life’s obstacles, they rob their children of valuable life lessons.  And when kids grow up not learning these lessons, they are ill-equipped for the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them.  Sure, a parent can “drive their snowplow” to get their child into college, or to graduate college. They may even “bulldoze” their child right into a job.  But what happens when their child is rejected in a relationship?  What happens when that child has an extremely tough situation to get through?  How will they know how to cope and persevere when they’ve never learned how?  Allow your kids the opportunities to make and learn from their own mistakes.  Let them fail.  If you don’t, you are failing them.

Needing Self-Care

Pouring From an Empty Cup

Parent: A job that requires your attention 24/7.  A job that requires you to give your all to someone else.  A non-stop ride of emotion; pure joy, pride, anger, frustration, embarrassment. A job that requires self-care.

The saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”  When parenting you are constantly needed, and it can drain you physically and emotionally.  Sure, the kids go to bed at night, but many of us use that time to catch up on chores.  You need to practice a little self TLC on a weekly, if not daily basis.  Self-care is not selfish, it is necessary to keep yourself going!

Filling Your Cup

Self-care is different for everyone.  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  Your personality type will determine what type of activity will rejuvenate you.  Maybe your self-care is getting together with your friends.  Maybe it’s taking some time to be alone.  Or maybe it’s a date night with your spouse.  No matter what it is for you, self-care should leave you feeling replenished, relaxed and happy.

 

For some of us, we have been so focused on other people (our kids) for so long, that we might have forgotten what makes us happy.  Take a moment to think about the things you used to do when you found yourself with a little extra time on your hands.  Here are some ideas to fill up your cup!

  1. Take a long bath or shower
  2. Do your nails (or go get them done)
  3. Go get your hair done
  4. Take a long drive and listen to music (or book, or favorite pod-cast)
  5. Read a book
  6. Sleep in or go to bed early
  7. Go see a new movie
  8. Write/journal
  9. Color/paint/create art
  10. Have a nice date night with your spouse
  11. Go out dancing (or dance in your home)
  12. Workout
  13. Take a long walk outside
  14. Take a weekend trip with your friends

6 Tips for a Good Talk

Communication has been on my mind for the past few days. I’ve been thinking about how I want to communicate with my sons.  My oldest is getting to an age where we will need to be having more life lesson talks with him.  I have always been open to all of his questions.  I have tried to make sure he knows that I am a safe person to talk to.  As he grows, I intend to keep our communication open and honest.  Here are 6 things I do to ensure that we have good talks, and continue to do so.

1. Talk Undistracted

Put away the devices, turn off the T.V., make sure the other kids are not going to disturb you. Some of the best talks I have with my kids are when we are just one-on-one in the car.  Another good time to chat is while I’m tucking them into bed.  It gives us a nice quiet time to mull things over.  But sometimes, I just pull my son aside to the table and we sit and have a chat together.  When you give your child your undivided, undistracted attention, they feel heard.

2. Listen, Really Listen

Communication is not just about getting your point or information across. It is about listening to someone and learning from them as well.  If your talk is coming from an angry place, you need to still be able to hear what your child has to say.  You may not agree, but you can get a better idea of their thought process by listening.  If your child comes to you with a problem, hear them.  Don’t just dismiss them because you think it’s an easy problem.  And don’t just try to come up with a quick fix to the situation.  Listen to their words and feelings about how they interpret the situation.

3. Use C.P.R.

With every talk you have with your children, you should always be Compassionate, Patient, and Respectful.  You may know how to handle a problem your kid is having, but this may be their first encounter.  Help your child navigate an issue while being empathetic to their feelings.  Patience comes into play as you help them try to figure out what the right thing to do is.  They are just learning to think for themselves, so don’t rush them. And, finally, respect their choice on a matter. To learn more about the C.P.R. Philosophy, and how to impiment it in your daily life, check out my book!

4. Be Honest

Tough questions will come from your kids sometimes, and it is always best to answer honestly.   Being honest not only gives your child correct information, but it also builds your credibility.  You don’t want to tell your kids a bunch of bs, and then have them find out.  When my oldest was 5 he asked how babies were made.  I told him that mommies and daddies have special cells, and when those cells are mixed together, they start to grow into a baby.  He’s quite a little Scientist, so this was satisfactory to him.  I was honest while still being age-appropriate.  I’ve also been asked about death, the environment, extinction, electricity, and so much more.  And each time, I have tried to answer as honestly as I could.  Sometimes that means saying, “I don’t know.”  When that happens, we usually bring Google into our conversation.

5. Ask What They Know and Think

When you begin a conversation with your child, ask how they feel about the situation.  Ask what they already know about the topic.  This will give you an insight as to how to guide the conversation.

6. Be Open

One-on-one talks with your kids are no place for judging, shaming, ridiculing, or punishing. Yes, there will be some times when you need to discipline your child, but I’m not talking about those talks.  When your child knows that you are open to talk about any topic, they feel safe.  When they feel safe, they will be more likely to come to you in the future.  I like to start and end my talks with my sons by reminding them that they can talk to me, or their father, about anything.  We are always available to talk.  If I initiated the conversation because of a discipline issue, I make sure that I am calm and collected before we talk.  The discipline part is over, now we talk it out and learn a lesson.

 

In no way am I perfect.  I’m sure I will mess things up at one point or another.  And I’m sure that as my sons grow into teens they will become distant.  However, I believe that if I lay the foundation of good, honest and open conversation now, they will be able to come to me with the big stuff later.

Alexa, Schedule My Mornings

What is the hardest part of getting the kids out the door in the morning?  If you’re anything like me, it’s keeping them on schedule.  Kids want to play!! They don’t understand about time management, it is up to us, the parents, to keep them on track.  However, parents can be negotiated with. Parents can make mistakes and put everyone in a rush.  But no need to worry, your Alexa (or your Google Home) can help!

Kids Don’t Argue With Alexa

I wrote a blog about using timers to help your kids transition from one activity to another.  You can read it here.  Basically I found that when it was time to leave somewhere, my kids would melt down even if I had verbally given them a 5 minute warning.  It was when I started setting my phone timer and saying, “When my phone makes noise, it is time to go,” that they began to listen with no problem!

My thought is that they think they can argue with me and extend their time.  But if the almighty phone says so, they can’t argue with it.  I found Alexa to be the same way.  At 7:30 every morning, I would tell my boys to go upstairs and get dressed.  The 8yo followed directions fine, but the 4yo was a different story.  He’d throw himself on the floor claiming he was still hungry, or he was too sleepy to go get dressed.  Then one evening I set a reminder on my Alexa ap. At 7:30 the next morning, Alexa said, “Boys, this is your reminder. It’s time to go upstairs and get dressed.”  To my amazement, my 4yo jumped up (actually gave a salute) and said, “Ok, Alexa!”  And he ran right up with no argument.

Scheduling Saves Time & Reducess Stress

Now some people may argue that I’m being lazy, or relying on technology to raise my children.  But let me ask you this, how many times has time gotten away from you in the mornings?  Maybe you get caught responding to an email, or you sleep past your alarm.  Or maybe you just get caught reading a story with your kids, or brushing teeth starts to take too long… Then all of a sudden, you and your kids are rushing through just to make it to the bus on time.  It happened a few times to me.  So I added more and more reminders to Alexa until she was pretty much running our mornings.  Our mornings look like this:

Alexa Reminders:

7:30am- Boys go upstairs and get dressed.

7:50- Time to get your backpack packed and your coat and shoes on.

7:51(only on Tuesdays)- Did you pack your library books?

7:55- Time to head out to the bus.

8:35- Time to get ready for school (pre-school for the 4yo)

After school, Alexa is set to remind us when to start getting ready for our after school activities.

This schedule allows for me to relax and read through emails while I have my tea without the fear of losing track of time.  It also saves arguments with my kids because they know that they can’t argue with Alexa.  In turn, it makes my kids’ mornings more calm and stress free because of the dependable structure.

How To Set The Reminders

On Alexa, all you have to do to set this up is to go into the Alexa Ap. on your phone. Under the menu tab, you will find Reminders & Alarms.  You can choose the device you want to add the reminder to, and the wording you want Alexa to say.  You also have the option to pick how often that reminder repeats.  Mine repeat every weekday.  I’m sure the Google Home reminder set up is similar.

A Date With Your Kids

Having one kid, there is nothing but non-stop one-on-one time.  Bonding through snuggles, playing and adventures.  Then, the second one comes around.  Suddenly your one-on-one time is limited.  Kids have a yearning to bond with their parents, and while it can easily be done during family time, it is much more meaningful when it is one-on-one.  That’s why I started taking my kids on dates.

Dating Your Kids

For one day, I will take just one kid out and do something fun, usually an activity a meal, and just some down time where we can be alone and talk.  Being with just one kid is nice for many reasons, but the best is just to get to know my growing kid better.  We talk about school, friends, activities, movies… whatever is on his mind!  He feels heard and understood.  My oldest (8 years old) really loves our dates right now.  Sometimes he gets sad that his little brother gets to stay home with me more while he has to go to school.  I know he’s growing up, and soon he won’t be so excited for our dates, so I cherish them as well.

What To Do

These dates don’t have to be anything fancy, or have to cost anything at all! One time we went to Target and had lunch at the Starbucks there, and then we walked around Target looking at fun stuff (LEGOs).  You could always pack a picnic lunch at take it to a park. You can take a class with your child as well.  My son loves Art, so we once went to a painting class.  The main idea is to do something that your child wants to do, and something where you will be able to really connect with them.  With Valentine’s Day coming up, this might be a good present for your kids.  You could give them a coupon for 1 date with just you!  Nothing is more important or meaningful to your child than your undivided attention.

For more date night ideas, click here, and here, and here!

New Year, New Perspective

A new year is always a time of new beginnings!! And if you and your family have been struggling to find peace and happiness, then it might be time for you to change your perspective.  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Have you been trying to change your child’s behavior or attitude?  Have you tried changing yours?

Our Job vs. Their Job

As parents we sometimes forget that it is OUR JOB to set limits, rules, boundaries and consequences.  We tend to think that our kids should just automatically follow what their parents say the first time they say it.  And in an ideal world of parenting, this would be true.  The thing that many parents don’t realize is that it is our kids’ job to TEST AND PUSH those limits, rules, boundaries and consequences.  You might think your kids are acting out because they are bad, but they are not.  In reality, they are just testing you and the rules you have set.  THIS IS HOW KIDS LEARN.  Your job is to set them straight every time.  Eventually, they will learn the lesson, and the rules will become second nature to them. However, until then, you must correct them, no matter how long it takes.

Change can be difficult at first

Changing your perspective, and in turn your own parenting habits, is hard.  Sometimes it’s even hard just to know where to start.  The good news is that I, and Parent Coach Terry Manrique, have written a book about just how to do it!!  Change Your Perspective; Improve Your Parenting  is a guide that will help you to change your mindset and parent more effectively, while giving you tips and tricks to handle real life situations.  You will learn about creating rules and boundaries, how to discipline along side giving affirmation, the importance of consistency, how to better communicate with your kids and so much more! Find your copy of Change Your Perspective; Improve Your Parenting here (hard copy or e-book), and start your year off by becoming a better parent!

 

“Terry and Jamie approach hot topics like rules, consistency, discipline, and affirmation in a way that will change the way that your family operates.  I’ve spent less time worrying and sweating the small stuff and more time enjoying the beautiful ride of parenthood.  Change Your Perspectives has been a game-changer for our family, and I highly encourage every parent to read this book (the sooner the better!!).” –Ashly DePew

The New Year’s Bucket List

The end of the year always gets us thinking about how we can improve ourselves in the new year.  We come up with resolutions to eat healthier, hit the gym more often or travel more.  We arbitrarily set these goals, and most fall by the wayside come February.  But what if we approached resolutions as more of a bucket list, and worked on them as a family?

Family Bucket List

On New Year’s Eve, sit down and have a discussion about the year.  What was their favorite thing to do? Where was their favorite place to go? What makes them laugh the most?  Then, start talking about what your family wants to do in the new year.  Where is somewhere they want to go? Maybe it’s a local zoo, museum, or theater they have never been.  What is a new food your family would like to try?  I like to buy one random new fruit or vegetable when I go to the grocery store.  My family then all tries it that night at dinner.  What is an activity that your family wants to do together?  Hiking, horseback riding, or playing more games together are all great options!

What to Do

The point of this is to 1) come up with your New Year’s Bucket List as a family, and 2) keep your family accountable to actually do it!!  So here are some pointers of how to get it done.

  1. Discuss the favorite events and activities from the past year.
  2. Find out what your family wants to do more of.
  3. Talk about what new things your family wants to try.
  4. On a large piece of paper, or poster board, write out your New Year’s Bucket List. Don’t over do it though. You don’t want to end up with a list that is impossible to complete. You can always add more as you go!
  5. Have your kids decorate your family bucket list (or even write it out if they can)! The more color, pictures (maybe glitter) the better!
  6. Hang it up where it is visible to the family on a daily basis.
  7. Add pictures of your family completing each thing. Now it becomes a memory board for the year as well as a bucket list.

 

It’s a fun way to push your family to try new things, and do more of the things you love!  And if the New Year’s Bucket List starts to become a tradition in your home, you will have a nice memory board year after year.

November Is For Giving

Every year the gap between Halloween and Christmas seems to close.  November 1st hits, and BOOM, people are talking about Christmas, or even going as far as putting up their Christmas decorations.  We seem to have forgotten a very important holiday that is in the middle, the star of November, Thanksgiving.  Society is quick to jump from the overindulgence and hoarding of candy on Halloween to the flashy commercialism of buying and getting gifts.  We forget to slow down, take count in our blessing, and just be thankful. We forget about giving.

We start giving on November 1st

In my house November is for giving.  We start on November 1st with a candy donation.  Our neighborhood is very generous with all the candy and treats they pass out, and there is no way my kids will eat all of it. So, I give each kid a small bowl and have them fill it with the candy/treats they really want.  Then, the rest goes into a box that we donate to the soldiers.  We are always sure in include a thank you note or pictures as well. Organizations like Operation Gratitude and Soldiers’ Angels collect candy, treats and other items to send in care packages to hard working military members overseas.  You can find a donation location near you here.  Be sure to check the deadline dates, some are fast approaching.

 

My family also knows that in November we go through everything and donate.  Toys, books, clothes, kitchen items, etc., everything gets examined and if we haven’t used it in a while, we donate it to a local charity.  Our kids’ books and toys go to a donation center called The Toy Box Collection.  They distribute toys and books to over 20 local children’s hospitals, shelters, orphanages, and other kids in need.  As we are going through, I talk to the kids about how lucky we are, and how some kids don’t have as much as they do.  Sometimes this is hard, especially with younger kids, but we talk through it.  I ask them to remember some happy memories playing with a toy, and then have them imagine how many happy moments it will bring another child.  We repeat often, November is for giving.

There are many ways to give

We also try to find ways to give our time.  My mom’s group hosts an Operation Christmas Child collection and packing party.  My son’s Cub Scouts also do several service projects including Feed My Starving Children.  If we see a food pantry collection box, we try to put something in it.  And every time we do, we talk about how it is important to help others.  November is for giving, and I’d like to see more people take the time to remember that.