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 One On One 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 special 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 One on One

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.

Choices and Consequences

Life is all about making choices and dealing with the consequences.  Good choices lead to good consequences, which we usually refer to as rewards.  Bad choices lead to bad consequences, which we usually refer to as punishment.  However in calling consequences either rewards or punishments tends to confuse us as parents, and skews our view of parenting.

Consequences are simply the results of our choices.

In parenting, one of our main goals is to teach our kids that their choices have consequences.  However, they don’t necessarily need to be rewards or punishments; they can just be naturally occurring consequences.  You don’t always have to take something away, and you don’t always have to give something to your child.  Does that make sense?

If you want your child to do their homework right away when they get home from school, tell them so.  Then give them a choice: they can get their homework done asap, and then have the rest of the evening to play, or they can sit at the table (desk or where ever) until they are ready to do their homework.  If they make a good choice, they can have more play time (good consequence).  If they make a bad choice, they delay their play time (bad consequence).  In this instance, you are not “rewarding” your child with something that wasn’t already going to happen.  And you’re not “punishing” them by taking something away.  It is all up to them and what they choose to do.

Setting the parameters.

This works for just about any situation.  All you have to do is set up the parameters:

  1. Determine what you are wanting your child to do.

-Get ready for bed

-Clean up toys

-Get dressed


  1. Clearly state the consequences to your child.

-If you don’t get ready for bed now, we won’t have time for a story.  But if you move quickly, we can read together.

-When you are done cleaning up your toys, we can have lunch (leave for a party, go to a friend’s house, whatever). The longer you take, the less time we will have for (enter in your thing here).

-If you don’t go decide what you are going to wear now, then I will choose your clothes for you.


  1. Always follow through. Whatever the consequences you have laid out to your child, you must follow through. If you don’t, your child will come to learn that you do not mean what you say, and that their choices don’t have any real consequences.


For more examples of this, and more tips on how to incorporate this technique into your parenting, please read our book!  Change Your Perspective, Improve Your Parenting is now available!!!

The Teal Pumpkin Project

Halloween is approaching, and there is somthing I’d like you to think about.  It is becoming more and more common for kids to have food allergies.  Most common is the peanut allergy.  Peanuts are in many of the candy bars that are given away to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  And if peanuts are not in the candy, the candy may have been exposed to nuts.  So what’s the big deal?  Many kids with allergies can’t trick-or-treat, or they can’t eat the candy they have collected.  That is where the Teal Pumpkin Project comes in.

What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?

The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative that is designed to educate and spread awareness about food allergies.  It also encourages people to have non-food items available for trick-or-treaters.  By simply putting a teal pumpkin on your stoop, or displaying a picture of one, indicates that your house as non-food treats.  You can go here to learn more.  Addresses can also be registered so that families with food allergies can search for houses near them that are safe to trick-or-treat at.  The main goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to help kids with food allergies have a safe and happy Halloween.

Non-food Treat Ideas

Candy is everyone’s go-to for Halloween treats, but here are some ideas for non-food treats:

-glow necklaces & bracelets                          -Halloween stickers & temporary tattoos

-vampire teeth & witch fingers                     -slime

-toy lizards, worms, bugs, etc.                      -Halloween pencils & erasers

-bookmarks                                                      -bouncy balls

-slinkies                                                             -bubbles


At my house, we have two bowls, one filled with candy, and another that is a Teal Pumpkin bowl.  We just don’t know how many kids are affected by food allergies, so we try to have something for everyone.  It’s a simple gesture that could make the difference in a child’s Halloween experience. Please think about becoming a Teal Pumpkin Home.

How to Create Screen Time Limits

Why are screen time limits so important? Today, our children are growing up with technology everywhere!  They have access to 24/7 entertainment, news and social media. There are even TV channels that have children’s programs on 24/7.

Many kids don’t get outside enough because they are glued to the screen.  Kids today are losing their sense of adventure and imagination because the constant entertainment of the screen has left them not needing to entertain themselves. Many kids aren’t developing social skills because their only interactions with people are through screens.  Screens are also causeing a lack of free play time.

Free play is one of the most important aspects of child development.  It is when a child is left to just play that they strengthen their creativity and imagination.  They practice and learn problem solving skills as well as large and fine motor skills.  However, when screen time encroaches on free play time, development slows.  Social emotional development, large and fine motor development, and even quality of sleep can be effected by screen time.

As parents, there are ways we can combat this lack of free play time, and help our children.  A big part of it is limiting screen time.  But what should the limits be, and how do we enforce them with our older kids?

Children Under 2

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens off around babies and toddlers younger than 18 months. They say a little screen time can be okay for older toddlers, and children 2 and older should get no more than an hour of screen time per day.

But the AAP emphasizes that setting time limits isn’t enough: It’s also important for parents to choose high-quality shows and games, and join their children during screen time instead of just handing over their phone to be used as an electronic babysitter.”

Young children don’t yet have the ability to learn anything from a screen. In fact, it can inhibit their verbal skills.  Verbal skills are best developed through real interactions with their parents and other people around them.  So rather than sitting your child in front of a show to “help them learn,” read a book to them, sing songs with them, and just talk to them.  These things will help to develop verbal and social skills in your young child.

Screen Time Limits for Children 3+

Kids who are older than 3 can have more screen time, and actually have the ability to learn and benefit from educational programming and interactive educational games.  However, this screen time should also be limited to about just one per day.  The trick is to seek out the high-quality games and programs that will help your child learn and develop.  And, again, watching or playing with your child is important so you can be aware of what they are learning, and have follow-up discussions.

Instead of screen time, let them just play!!  Allow them to run around outside, or give them toys that they can create with.  LEGOS, blocks, Play-dough, costumes, dolls and action figures, pretend kitchens or stores all help to spark a child’s creativity and imagination.  When kids are left to their own devices when at play, their creativity awakens, and their social and problem solving skills develop and strengthen.  Even something as simple as a box of crayons and paper can get their brains going.

Tweens & Teens

It’s when kids get older, and get their own devices given to them, that this limiting really starts to get difficult.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that some homework assignments will require the use of a computer and possibly even the internet. But there are ways to limit your older child’s screen time.  And since you really can’t control how much time they will need to spend online (or on a device) for homework, I suggest focusing on setting the recreational screen time limits (games, TV, movies, social media).

Make hard and fast rules about when and where screen time can be had.  I know many parents have a docking/charging station in a main room of their homes.  This is a place where all phones are to be plugged in and kept.  This keeps it so that your kids are not always on their phones in the house.  Many parents also have a “no technology behind closed doors” policy.  This keeps your kids from wielding their tablets or phones alone in their rooms.

Another option is to have a work station in common areas of the home.  This way if a child requires internet access for a homework assignment, they are in a communal area.  This may work for some, but not all.  Figure out what works best for your family.

A good way to set the rules and limits of device use is to have a screen time limits/internet use contract with your child.  This would be a document that clearly lays out all the rules and screen time limits your child is to abide by if they are to be allowed to have their own phone or tablet.  It should also clearly state the consequences your child will face if the contract is broken.

Lead by Example

But setting screen time limits isn’t enough; you need to lead by example, and limit your own screen time as well.  But what does that look like?  Many of us work via emails and messaging, but we can control when we work.  If we work from home, we can be sure to keep our work in our home office, at our home desk, or only between certain hours of the day.  When our kids are around and require our attention, we should make sure we PUT OUR PHONES DOWN and give them our undivided attention.  This demonstrates that people, that THEY, are more important than our screens.

When our children are off playing, or at school, and don’t require our direct attention, follow the same rules you set for them in regards to screen time limits.  Have a free moment? Try picking up a book instead of your phone.  Or occupy yourself with a physical task rather than always reaching for your screen to entertain you.

At meal times, create a no-screen policy.  Give your family the opportunity to talk, share and connect with one another.  When screens constantly become a presence in our lives, our relationships cease to grow and deepen.

Too much screen time can lead to lessened sleep quality, can lead to obesity, and can also lead to depression.  We grew up without technology, so teaching balance is new ground for parents these days.  However, if we make screen time limits and balance a priority lesson for our children, they will grow up and be able to pass the lesson on to their kids as well.

The Importance of Limiting Screen Time

Yes, I realize the irony of me writing about limiting screen time, and then distributing it out onto social media platforms.  However, that is where we are at today.  Our lives have changed, and so is the way we communicate and keep in touch with one another.  Social media is the new handwritten letter to your long-distance friend.  Our phones are now how we not only communicate socially, but how we check our emails for work.  They act as our cameras too, so even when we want to disconnect, we have them close in case a photo op arises.  We play games, get our news, find recipes, and even read books on our phones and tablets.  There is almost no escape from the screen.

Many of us didn’t grow up with this sort of technology infiltrating every aspect of our lives.  When I was little, we had a house phone.  We had a desk top computer with access to the World Wide Web.  But the technology was confined to those two places.  We couldn’t use the phone away from the house, and we couldn’t take the computer to our rooms.  Children’s programs were on TV in the mornings, and that was it.  When we left the house we were free from screens.  We played outside, used our imaginations, talked to friends, had pen-pals, explored our surroundings, and had a great time.

Today, our children are growing up with technology everywhere!  They have access to 24/7 entertainment, news and social media. There are even TV channels that have children’s programs on 24/7.  And this constant stream of endless entertainment is one reason we need to limit screen time for our kids, as well as for ourselves.

Limiting Your Kid’s Screen Time

Why is it important to limit a child’s time in front of screens?

-Screen time can inhibit a child’s creativity and imagination.

-Social and emotional development can be stunted by excessive screen time.

-Large and fine motor skills are not being developed during screen time.

-Quality of sleep can be affected by excessive or late-night screen time.


How To Set Limits:

-Set certain times of the day when your child knows they may have screen time. (ie: in the morning before school, after school, rest time)

-Set a time limit for these time blocks.  Make sure your child is getting no more than 2 hours of screen time per day (depending on their age)

-Be consistent.  Once you set the rules and limits, stick with them every day.  Your child will learn to stay within them as long as you are consistent.


Limiting YOUR Screen Time

Why is it important to limit YOURSELF?

-Your kids learn from what you do. If you are always on your phone, they will be too.

-Interaction is a big part of your child’s development; teach them to socialize and interact with people face to face.

-Be more present in your life and the world around you.  Appreciate and explore with your child.

-Critical thinking skills can be diminished with excessive screen time.

-Too much screen time and not enough real-world personal interaction can lead to depression.

-Quality of sleep can be affected by excessive or late-night screen time.


Setting Limits In Your Home:

-Set certain times when you are allowed access to your devices (when your kid naps, or after they sleep, or during certain working hours).

-If you work from home, keep your work confined in your home office or at your desk.  Don’t be working from your phgone or tablet when you are with the rest of your family.

-Put your phone down.  Take your phone out of your pocket and just leave it on the counter somewhere.  If it’s not physically on you, you won’t be tempted to check it every time it buzzes with a notification, or when you think you’re bored.

-Don’t allow media at the table.  Talk to your family instead of looking at a screen.

-Say goodnight.  Set a goodnight time for your phone, TV and tablet.  Shutting off screens at least an hour before you go to bed will help you to sleep better.

-Be consistent.  You may be very used to viewing your screen whenever you want, but it’s good to set limits.  Be strict with yourself, be consistent in following the limits you set, and soon it will become routine.

It Takes a Village

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but what exactly does that mean?  Yes, one person could raise a child alone with no help, but I don’t think that’s the point.

The Help

First of all, parents need help.  They need to have someone in their lives that can come in, care for the child, and allow them to take a break.  Parenting is exhausting, and breaks are needed.  Even a trusted babysitter who comes once a week is a help.  More so are the daily help a parent gets.  Whether it be a spouse who comes home at night, or a daily caregiver who watches and cares for your child while you are at work.  These people are part of your and your child’s village, and without them, things would be so much harder.

The Community

Branching out into a wider village, you have your neighbors, teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, etc. who have an almost daily interaction with your children.  They don’t necessarily help you in a literal way, but they do have an impact. These people teach your children to follow rules outside of your home.  They teach them about being part of a community and helping one another out.  And they also may introduce your child to different interests and hobbies that they may not have been exposed to within your home.

The Family

Even further still, you have a village of extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and family friends, who may not see your child every day, but who have a great impact on their lives.  These are the people who love your child as you do.  They can tell stories of a younger you to your child.  They help to set your child straight, but also give them special attention.  These are the people you go on big family vacations with, have holiday parties with, and make life-long memories and traditions with.

Your village that helps raise your child is a little about assistance, but it is mostly about interacting with different people.  All these interactions help influence and teach your child about the world around them.  Every single one of these people will help to shape the person your child becomes.  Who is in your village? Who is impacting your child as they grow up?