Slave to the Schedule

busy mom with kids preparing for activitiesAs a mother, do you ever feel like a slave? And I don’t mean in a constantly cooking, cleaning, and caring for another person way. I’m referring to time. From the moment your kids are born you are on the clock, and time no longer belongs to you. You have become a slave to the schedule.  At first you are a slave to feeding schedules, and this is especially true if you are breastfeeding. Every few hours you need to make sure that you and your baby are in a comfortable place to feed. If you’re out and about and bottle feeding, you need to make sure you’re prepared.

More Than Just a Feeding Schedule

The next form of scheduled servitude is to nap time. Whether your baby is taking one or two naps a day, you know that if he doesn’t take them there will be hell to pay. So you’re trapped at home, or you’re trapped in the car because he fell asleep on the way to or from something, and you know that if you try to move him he’ll wake up and never go back to sleep.

Currently, I am a slave to potty training. Always keeping an eye on the clock, trying to remember when he last used the potty. When leaving the house, you have to time your trips, hoping not to get caught at too many red lights or in too much traffic. And no matter where you go, you always need to know the fastest way to the bathroom.

While being a slave to potty training will pass, like the others, just know there is more to come. In the future we can look forward to being a slave to sports practice and game schedules, dance recitals, plays and their rehearsals, and other after school activity schedules. As a mom, you don’t get much time for yourself, let alone have things work around your schedule, but I guess we knew that’s what we were signing up for when we took the job.

Every Child Should Have Lunch

school-lunchBefore you begin to read this, I want you to know that this is an opinion piece.  I was angered by these articles, and felt compelled to write my thoughts down.  I have added the links to two articles discussing the same topic: food being taken away from children at school. Apparently the school was having a problem with parents not paying for their children’s meal plans. After failed collection attempts, the school decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to allow all the children to go through the lunch line and get their lunch, then go through the cafeteria and take the food away from the children with outstanding balances. When I read this, I was so taken aback that I didn’t even know what aspect of the story pissed me off more.

Schools should take matters up with parents, not kids.

First of all, as principal of a school your main concern should be the welfare of your students, period. With that being the case, how on Earth could a principal make the decision to take food out of the hands and mouths of students? It doesn’t even seem legal, let alone a morally sound decision. Maybe you could argue that it was a financially based decision, but the school served the food and then threw it away. So it was a big waste of food and money. If they were truly concerned about the money, they should have stopped the children from going through the lunch line in the first place, but then we’d still have the problem of kids not eating.

My second issue, especially with the second article, is that the focus seems to be on the humiliation the children experienced. I’m very sure that the kids were thoroughly embarrassed by having their food taken away from them in front of all their peers. And I completely agree that a school should never make a point by humiliating its students. However, I think the bigger issue is that the kids went hungry for the rest of the day. Why did neither article mention the cruelty of leaving children hungry? I don’t know about you, but I feel that hunger trumps humiliation any day.

It’s happening more than we think.

Finally, I’m appalled that this is not an isolated incident. The particular school these articles are talking about is in Utah. But the second article mentions that a school district in New Jersey has sent letters to parents threatening to do the same thing. And these are just the states in the articles; it’s becoming a nation wide problem. It baffles me that schools can’t seem to come up with a better way to get parents’ attention. Could they not simply withhold report cards, or ban the kids from field trips until the parents paid the balances? Why do the students have to starve?! No matter what way you look at it, this is a horrible situation. I truly hope these school officials get their acts together and stop punishing their students for the parents’ mistakes.

**Since writing this, the problem hasn’t stopped.  However, it is getting more attention.  I am proud to say that my state, Illinois, has recently passed a law prohibiting lunch shaming.  It’s unfortunate that this sort of common sense compassion needs a law to be had. But at least people are starting to care.**

“No” is Not a Four-Letter Word

How-to-be-a-More-Assertive-Parent_ArticleWhile at a kid’s birthday party this past weekend, I came across a parent’s worst nightmare, a pair of brothers who seemed to have never heard the word “no.” These boys were taking toys from the other kids, pushing anyone who got in their way, running all over the party, sneaking cookies before dessert was actually served, and shaking all of the birthday girl’s presents. All the while, their mom and dad would occasionally call after them, in an overly calm and friendly voice, “Hey, guys, maybe we shouldn’t do that,” or, “Now, now, play nice.”

It was obvious that the kids were in charge, and the parents were just along for the ride. When did parents make the drastic transition from telling their kids to go pick a switch from the tree to being afraid of telling their kids “no”? While beating your kids with a stick isn’t an acceptable form of discipline, parents must realize that they need to have to power over their kids, and “no” is a useful word.

“NO” is useful in setting rules and boundaries.

It’s obviously best to start setting rules and boundaries when your child is very young, but it is never too late to start. Children need, and actually crave, rules and boundaries. Knowing what to expect, and what is expected of them, helps to give kids a sense of stability and security. You need to set clear and simple rules, and most importantly, stick to them and be consistent.

Is your child demanding a snack? Let him know that you won’t give him one until he asks nicely and says, “Please.” He may throw an even bigger fit at first, but if you stay calm and stick to your guns, eventually he will know that he won’t get what he wants by whining. Is it too close to meal time to have a snack? Simply tell your child, “No.” Again, a fit may be thrown at first, but if you ignore the bad behavior, he will learn that temper tantrums don’t get him what he wants. When kids experience frustration, it helps them to learn how to be patient and to practice self-control.

Consistency in rules and boundaries with added praise is effective!

It is a kid’s job to test boundaries, but as a parent, it is your job to set the boundaries and stick to them! While trying to establish your rules and boundaries, use “no” and mean it, but don’t forget about praising the good behavior as well. Simple phrases such as, “Thank you for listening,” and, “Wow! I like how patient you are being,” can really boost a child’s self-esteem and encourage them to keep pleasing you.

You will find that the combination of clear, consistent rules and praise for good behavior will lead to your needing to say “no” less; but when you do need to say it, you’ll find that it is more effective because your kids will know that you mean it. I’ll leave you with a little reminder I that I found on babycenter.com, “…don’t give into begging and whining unless you want to live with the habits.”

Unplug Your Kids from Phones and Tablets

download (4)Technology is everywhere. Unless you live in a remote part of the world, technology is inevitably part of your life. Cable gives you access to over 500 channels, and with smart phones and tablets, the entire internet is right at your fingertips. But all these options can also make it easy for parents to get lazy. Phones and tablets each have thousands of apps designed to entertain and educate young children, and with all the channels on T.V., there are more kids shows than ever before. However, no matter how advanced technology has become, technology should not be a substitute for parent/child interaction.

Technology has it’s benefits

I’m the first to admit, I am impressed with the way a three year old can operate, and navigate, a smart phone or tablet.  And there is a time and place when phones and tablets really come in handy! When you have to take them with you to your doctor’s appointments, traveling long distances, or waiting while a sibling is at a practice, these devices are your sanity savers. However, at home, it should be a different story.

Phones and tablets at home

At home we are pretty much unplugged. Sure, the T.V. may be on, but it’s background noise to the games we play, the books we read, the block towers we build, and the interactions we share together. As a parent, you are your children’s fist teacher, and they need you to be active in that role. They learn to converse with others by having conversations with you. They learn social rules, such as sharing and taking turns, by playing with you. And they even learn early reading skills just by listening to you read a story.

The best part is, when you set them up with these skills, it allows them to become better at independent play, and that allows you a little quiet time. Don’t let your kids become the ones who freak out because the tablet died; unplug them, and help them interact with the world and the people around them.

For more reasons to unplug your kids at home, please click here!

Christmas Break Blues

download (3)Whether you are traveling or staying local, hosting or being a party guest, the holiday season can be a stressful time of year for many reasons. This is especially true if you have children. The days are shorter, but they seem to last forever because the kids are on Christmas Break, and some days it is too bitterly cold to send them outside to play. The kids become bored and restless, eventually turning on one another, and look to you to solve the madness. But all you want is five minutes of peace to finish your coffee. Sound familiar?

Getting Started on Christmas Break

Don’t fret. There is a way to help relieve some of this stress, but it does take a little effort and strategy. Bust out your calendar and make a plan for every day! Before Christmas Break begins, or on the first day, ask your kids for some ideas of what they would like to do to keep them busy.   Use post-it notes to create a calendar of events (I like post-it notes becuase you can easily move them around depemding on the weather).  Make sure you leave a day to go shopping for any supplies that might be needed!

Outside Activities

If it’s tolerable, send your kids outside to play!  You spend all that money on snowpants, boots, coats and gloves; you might as well get use out of them!!  Just make sure that they have all the necessary equipment for building proper forts and/or snowmen so they aren’t coming inside every five minutes to get something. Shovels, rakes, sand castle bukets, ect. will be perfect for this!  Plan to take them skating, sledding or skiing one day. Sure, you will probably have to participate too, but nothing tires a kid out more than playing on a snowy hill.  Or maybe just go on a winter walk through your neighborhood!

Inside Activites

On days when it’s too cold to set foot outside, have crafts on the ready!! Your kids can make decorations to hang on the windows, or holiday cards or gifts to give your friends and family. Create your own “ugly sweaters” by painting up some old sweatshirts or sweaters and gluing on pom-poms and glitter. They can decorate picture frames or make ornaments to hang on the tree. Baking and cooking projects are always fun too! Need to move around? You can always turn on a little holiday music and have a dance party, or an ugly sweater fashion show. And when you just need to get out of the house, you can take your kids to a movie. Or take them Christmas shopping at the dollar store, and then, when you get home, you can have a wrapping party. Whatever you plan to do, just make sure you have a plan so boredom doesn’t take over. And if all else fails, send them to Grandma’s house.

The Debate Over Vaccines

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The Debate

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate; that is the question. As the flu season falls upon us once again, the topic of discussion once again turns to vaccination. But flu vaccines aren’t the only ones up for debate. Many parents these days are choosing not to vaccinate their children from infectious diseases including measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis, diphtheria, and small pox.

Vaccines: The Facts

These, among other infectious diseases, are preventable through vaccination, and according to statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the presence of these diseases has dropped between 74% and 100% since the pre-vaccination era. Simply said, because of vaccinations, several infectious diseases have been nearly eradicated in our modern society. Those numbers alone should be reason enough to persuade parents to vaccinate their children, yet some parents still argue against it. They claim that vaccines can cause Autism and other problems for children; however, there has been no scientific evidence to support their theories.

The Choice

Because of the accusations made by these anti-vaccinators, more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate in fear of what it will do to their child. However, they need to start thinking more globally. Since this anti-vaccination “movement” has begun, cases of the previously mentioned infectious diseases have begun to rise. If you ask me, that is not good for us. It seems as if people are intentionally trying to reverse all the good vaccines have done for our society.

All I ask is that before you make your decision whether or not to vaccinate your children you do your research because, yes, there are some slight risks that come along with vaccines. However, the spread of infectious diseases in America is much worse. So check into credible sources, and think about the welfare of those around you as well. J.J. Keith tells the truth when she said, “Vaccines are different from every other parenting issue in that the choices that parents make affect everyone else as well. Vaccines are everyone’s business.”

Mindfulness Over Matter

childParents.com has a great little article entitled “A Calm Approach to Discipline”. It discusses using a method called Mindfulness when your child is having a hard time facing an emotionally difficult situation. According to the article, “Mindfulness teaches kids to pay attention to themselves and the world around them.”

Mindfulness is a tool to be used.

Essentially, it is a calm way to diffuse a situation before your child can get into full-blown tantrum mode. The article does a great job of staging several real-life situations, and then providing examples of how to mindfully handle them. By directing your child’s attention to a physical depiction of how they are feeling, or making them taking notice of the things around them, children can take a step back and regain control of their emotions before dealing with the situation at hand. I feel that the best part of using this method is that over time, your child will learn to use this calming approach themselves when they face challenges.

Kids and adults of all ages should learn and practice mindfulness.

It’s no secret that, as human beings, we tend to make better choices when we approach challenges with a clear mind and a calm self. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that many of us don’t learn until we are into adult hood. But why not teach our young children to calm themselves, and to think before they react to a situation? It seems to me that it can do nothing but help them become more rational adults. Isn’t that one thing we all want for our kids? And if we practice what we preach, this method can help bring a little more calm into our own lives as well.  Check out our books for hands-on examples of how to incorporate mindfulness into your parenting.

Revive Your Parenting- C.P.R. for Parents

Change Your Perspective, Improve Your Parenting

Why the Early Years Matter

imagesCA43I5VDChildren Are Born Learning

Our knowledge of human growth and development in the earliest years has taught us that children are learning from the moment they are born. Brain growth, approaches to life and learning, language skills are shaped by what does or does not happen in a child’s first day, months, and years.

Infancy and Toddlerhood

This is when the brain’s architecture develops. Early experiences that are nurturing, active and challenging actually thicken the cortex of an infant’s brain. This creates a brain with more extensive and sophisticated neuron structures that determines intelligence and behavior. So, having good experiences help the brain develop.  And poor experiences can literally cause a genetically normal child to have a lower IQ. Children who are exposed to less language, less touch, little adult interaction actually have smaller brains.

Children Learn How to Learn

Responsive and nurturing relationships early in life build not only synapse rich brains, but also the social and emotional foundations that support lifelong learning. Today, young children are expected to enter kindergarten being able to count, recite the alphabet, and write their names. Equally important, on their first day of kindergarten, teachers also expect children to be able to listen, and follow directions. Teachers expect children to start and finish small projects, express their needs, be able to wait, and know when they need help.

We now know a child must develop these skills long before the first day of school, the key ingredients of successful learners are:

Confidence and self-control

Curiosity

Self-reliance

Persistence

Ability to communicate

Cooperativeness

Because these are difficult skills, parents must nurture them through responsive relationships during a child’s earliest years. Warm, nurturing relationships with parents and teachers provide infants and toddlers the emotional nourishment they need to succeed.

Children Build Language and Literacy Skills That Last a Lifetime

Basic language and communication skills are essential building blocks of reading readiness in the first three years of life. Scientific evidence confirms that how much parents and teachers talk to their babies is critically important to early language development.

Children who hear fewer words before age three have dramatically smaller vocabularies than children who have richer early language experiences. During the first two years language development improves when an adult puts into words what an infant/toddler is looking at or listening to.

For more about the early learning years visit www.ounceofprevention.org/news

Back to School With Peace of Mind

download (5)Back to school season has come upon us once again, and one of the main concerns on everyone’s mind is school safety. We know many schools added additional security or put in locked doors to keep our children safe.

While school shootings are infrequent, they get nation-wide media attention, and tend to stick in the memories of parents and students alike. If you, or your child, are feeling anxious about what might happen, have a talk with your school’s administration and ask about the safety precautions the school has taken to help prevent the unthinkable.

Most schools have locked doors that can be opened by a buzzer in the main office, security cameras at main entrance ways, and visitor check-in’s to keep track of who enters the building. Some schools have a police officer who is in the school at all times, and others have shatterproof glass, particularly on first floor windows and entry ways. Also, some schools have implemented lock-down drills so teachers and students know how to respond in case of crisis. Much like tornado and fire drills, the idea is that if teachers and students know what to do and where to go, lives can be saved.

You can also talk to your children about what they can do to help aid in crisis prevention. Make sure they know that if they see a suspicious person hanging around school grounds, or if one of their peers begins acting strangely or aggressively, they need to tell a teacher or administrator right away. If they see something, say something. But while open discussions are a good way to teach and prepare your children, make sure you are calm in your approach because you want them informed, not scared.

Stairway to Awesomeness!

1173761_525274937543424_65570806_nToday, I would like to share the story of a truly awesome woman who turned her life around. She is now sharing her stories with the world through her book, Stairway to Awesomeness.

Are You Being an Awesome Person?

Life is hard and it isn’t always fair. And sometimes… life isn’t just hard, it’s downright INSANE! Being a parent presents a whole new set of challenges, responsibilities and insanity. Sometimes trying to cope with all of the stresses of parenthood can really wear you down and it can seriously affect your mental health and well being. Especially if you are struggling as a person to begin with. This is something that I experienced for many years.

“I experienced many of life’s seemingly insurmountable blows.”

Throughout the challenges of my life, I experienced many of life’s seemingly insurmountable blows. For many years I lived a dark, disturbing, depressing, miserable and reckless existence as a result, even as a parent. I was an angry, negative person that kept blaming and justifying my self-destructive words, actions and behavior on the crappy hand that life dealt me instead of accepting accountability. Then… I hit rock bottom, took a life time-out, figured out what I had to do to get back to good and reinvented myself into a strong, happy, positive and “awesome” person, parent and role model.

What’s in Stairway to Awesomeness:

My book, Stairway to Awesomeness, is my tragedy-to-triumph life story that I wrote in an effort to inspire people to live a life of “awesomeness”. The 30 fundamental steps that I write and illustrate about are all about:

  • Teaching people how to embrace the insanity of life and focus on the positive lessons, the blessings and the humor…even in the face of adversity.
  • Learning how to think before you speak/react and living with an accepting open mind.
  • Discovering how and why you should change your way of thinking about many things we have been conditioned to believe so you stop setting yourself up for emotional failure.
  • Understanding how to communicate and release anger, negativity and toxic drama in a positive way.
  • Learning how to ultimately being an awesome role model and encouraging others to do the same.

So it’s not a book about parenthood. However, it will teach you about how to be an awesome person in life, which in turn will certainly and ultimately help you be a better parent. You can check out the book trailer HERE.

“Just because you are a parent, it doens’t mean you forget about your own happiness.”

I often hear parents say that they don’t take time for themselves, take care of themselves and/or reward themselves. Yes, children are a great priority. But just because you are a parent, it doesn’t mean that you forget about your own happiness and living life to the fullest. Taking time for yourself, taking care of yourself and rewarding yourself is not selfish. It is important and necessary. It is essential for your mental health. This is something else that I focus on in the book a great deal.

Cynthia Sue LarsonMBA, best-selling author and intuitive life coach advanced reviewed my book and said: “”This is the perfect book for every parent to keep in their own time-out room…Highly recommended!” So if you aren’t living life to the fullest, and you are struggling with some of the things I have mention above, please do take a time-out to read my book. Discover your own awesomeness so you can ultimately be an awesome parent! =)

Enter the Comic Strip Mama™ Blog Tour of AWESOMENESS Extravaganza Giveaway for your chance to win some AWESOME prizes!