Tag Archives: Family

I am Proud to Say That I am Living My Parents American Dream #MassMutual #AmericanFamilyStudy

1 Mar

“I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for MassMutual. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating.”

My wife likes saying that our kids have the perfect speech if they ever plan to run for office “My Grandfather was a waiter for 20 years and my Grandmother was a seamstress who made mens suits for 60 cents a piece – they came to the U.S. from Asia to follow the American dream and they achieved it – 3 children with college degrees, their own business and a fully paid-off home.”  You can’t get more apple pie than that.  This is over-simplified, and it was not all happiness and easy times – but all that my family has achieved is the result of what they believed and how hard they worked for it.

What attracted me to MassMutual’s State of the American Family Study is that it studies what I think is at the heart of what most families worry about – finances. We may want to separate the two, but they are invariably intertwined.  I was curious as to the results of the study.  Here are some statistics or results that stood out for me:

  • A lot of things have not changed across all ethnicities – family is still number one, and parents don’t want to be a burden to their children.
  • What really surprised me though is the importance around educating kids about finance – I wonder if that would be in the top five 20 years ago.  That is a priority within my family – teaching the girls the value of things, saving, and how hard work pays off.
  • Interesting factoid about women vs. men when it comes to planning and enforcing savings.  I have to admit in my experience as a Certified Financial Planner by profession this also tends to be true.  I didn’t realize how predominantly true it was.
  • Women are less likely than men to have estimated how much savings they will need (55% vs. 67%) in retirement, but when a plan is developed, they tend to stick with it more than their male counterparts.
  • I work with a number of LGBT families in my job and because they don’t have marriage equality in all states, they have to be more aware and sensitive to their planning needs when it comes to estate planning, financial management, medical directives, etc.  
  • LGBT families are more attuned to issues of elder care, ranking not burdening children with elder care higher than traditional families and are more likely to own long-term care insurance.

At the end of the day what makes a “dream” something worthwhile is how achievable and fulfilling it is.  My parents were able to achieve their American dream and my wishes for my kids are not any less aspirational.  Maybe not so grounded in the basics but more centered around how they are as human beings – being a good member of society means being a good honest person, a hard-working person, and with that comes financial responsibility.  The new “dream” to me is to nurture children into adults who can fulfill their own dreams that will someday knock my socks off! 

  • To learn how MassMutual can help families achieve their American Dream today, please review the MassMutual Family Finances study here: http://bit.ly/M9xloU

Our Thoughts on Discipline — Stop YELLING!

7 Sep

I know, I know… it’s impossible isn’t it?  And no, we’re not yell-free at our house — we wish.  This article to me is more of a reminder of why we shouldn’t yell and I’ll sure as heck try to not yell – because funny thing is, I know it doesn’t work – yet it slips out anyways when the Ms. Hannigan in me rears her ugly head.  I remember a time when I was child-free looking at other parents yelling at the kids in the store/park/etc. and thinking “that is NOT going to be me”.  Well alas, just the other day at the library no less I found myself seeing my toddler try hopping down stairs while distractedly looking around and for some reason the yell just ripped out of me “STOP! What are you thinking?!?!” echoed through the silence – ugh.  Worse, since the toddler is a bit more rambunctious than my older child, I find myself yelling at her more than I ever did  her older sister… so what do you think happened?  My munchkin is more of a yeller :0/ – I’m not going to take all of the credit for this, but I’m certainly not faultless (waaaaaaah) – I see my hubs raising his voice in exasperation at well… BUT we are trying to change.

What we do believe in is modeling, we have to model behavior we want our children to have, there is no way around it (save for boarding school – haha).  We also aren’t aiming to be perfect parents by any means, you know where I categorize this?  Parenting as a way for me to become a better person, and being a better person means getting a hold of my temper and dealing with things in a more even-tempered way.  The truth is, what I realize now is that it is sometimes not the act itself that makes me yell but something else that isn’t even my child’s fault – like when I don’t get enough sleep the night before, or when I’m so busy with a million and one errands I need to get done.  But yelling doesn’t solve anything, and it certainly doesn’t make me feel better.  So goodbye yeller mom!  Hello zen mom with a cup of coffee in her hands 😉

10 Ways to Stop Yelling

overwhelmed parent

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to cool down.

You told your child to pick up all his toys and get ready for bed. Five minutes later when you check in, the toy cars are still all over. You feel your blood start to boil. You’re on the verge of losing it. Turn around, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to collect yourself — and your emotions. Michelle LaRowe, author of A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists, says, “Take a time-out. If you’re worked up, you’re only going to work up your child. Before addressing your child, take a deep breath and think through what you’re going to say, calmly.”

child jumping on couch
Address the Behavior

We all have good kids; sometimes their behavior just stinks.

When you’re teaching your children to ride their bikes, do you punish them when they don’t get it the first try? Of course not. You encourage them, support them, and give them guidance. Rex Forehand, Ph.D., author of Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Third Edition, with Nicholas Long, Ph.D., says that disciplining your children should be the same way. “When we think about teaching our children, we usually go about it in positive ways, that is except for behavior,” Dr. Forehand says. “For some reason we think that punishment should be our teaching tool.” It doesn’t need to be. When your child hits another child during a playdate, it’s easy to react with yelling, “Stop! Don’t do that!” Instead, Dr. Forehand suggests focusing on addressing the specific behavior and taking the opportunity to patiently teach your child why hitting is wrong.

mother talking to child
Mean Business Without Being Mean

Instead of yelling, use a firm, but soft, I-mean-business tone when giving behavior directions.

Direction that makes the most impact on a child is actually one that is stern and even somewhat gentle, says LaRowe. “When you speak in a calm but firm soft voice, children have to work to listen — and they most always do. The calmer and softer you speak, the more impact your words will have,” she says. Not only will your child most likely grasp your instructions faster, you won’t have to lose your voice trying to convey it.

mother talking to child
Help Your Child Explain Feelings

Before you lose your cool because your child has misbehaved, figure out what is causing the behavior.

One of the biggest reasons toddlers misbehave is they simply haven’t learned an alternative approach to displaying their feelings. “Our goal as parents should be to teach our children how to effectively express themselves by validating their feelings without validating their behavior,” LaRowe says. Next time Tommy pushes a friend who just knocked over his blocks, stray away from the tempting ridicule of yelling “No! Don’t do that!” LaRowe suggests instead explaining why the action is bad. “Tommy, I understand you are mad that your friend knocked over your blocks. It’s okay to be mad, but when you are mad you tell your friend ‘I’m mad;’ you don’t push.”

toddler in timeout
Have Clear Rules & Follow Through

Not carrying out your threats will result in them testing you — and you getting angry.

“Jenna, please turn off the TV.” Five minutes later, Jenna is still watching TV. “Jenna, I mean it, turn off the TV or you will sit in time-out.” Five minutes later, Jenna is still watching TV. “Jenna, I mean it …” Empty threats and nagging won’t work on your children, and eventually they will call your bluff. And when they do, it’s likely parents will find themselves frustrated and yelling. But this is easy to avoid. Have clear rules. When you state a consequence, follow through.

mother talking to her child
Give Praise for Okay Behavior

Parents praise their children for good behavior, and scold for the bad, but what about the in-between?

Children love getting attention from their parents, sometimes even if it’s bad. “Parents tend to give attention to their child either by praising them for good behavior or punishing them for bad behavior. And at times a child will take either or,” says Dr. Long, who advises to ignore your children when they are acting badly, such as whining to get attention. “If you yell at them, you are still giving them the interest they wanted, and therefore they will continue to use negative behavior to get a reaction from you,” Dr. Long says. If you praise behavior, even when it is just okay, then your child will be more likely to repeat it because of the way you took notice.

child hugging mother
A Strong Bond Makes Discipline Easier

The stronger your relationship is with your child, the stronger your discipline will hold.

At this age your child wants to be close to you. Take advantage of it and reaffirm your bond with your child. Not only will it strengthen the relationship between parent and child, but your child will then have a greater respect for you. According to Parenting the Strong-Willed Child: The Third Edition, the closer you are to your child, the less likely your child is to act up, even though no child is perfect. “A child who has a strong relationship with a parent is more prone to accept the discipline offered by a parent,” Dr. Long says.

toddler discipline

Are you hurt when someone yells at you? Of course; so why wouldn’t your child be?

“Our goal as parents should be to teach our children and to build them up, not to tear them down. When we yell at our children we risk damaging their self-esteem and sense of self-worth,” LaRowe says. Consider how you’d feel if your boss yelled at you. You’d likely be embarrassed and hurt. LaRowe points out that often you don’t have a chance to process what your boss is saying because of how it was said. The same goes for your child. You want to be able to teach him what is acceptable and what is not without making him feel shame or embarrassment.

mom putting toddler to bed
Good Eating & Sleeping Habits

Healthy children are the happiest children.

Parents underestimate the power of what a well-balanced diet and a good sleeping schedule can do for a child’s behavior. If you think about it, what are two of the major underlying problems that cause toddlers to act up? Hunger and fatigue. Well-rested, well-nourished children who are on predictable schedules tend to have fewer behavioral issues. On the flip side, the better your sleeping and eating habits are as a parent, the more likely you are to keep your cool longer — and catch yourself before you start yelling.

Stop Sibling Squabbles
We’re Not Perfect

No matter how hard we try, sometimes we will slip up and yell. And that’s okay, as long as we know how to make it right.

Your child has been driving you up the wall all day. You have tried to keep your cool and follow all the steps, and yet you still feel your temper escalating. And then, one small mishap from your child, and you lose it. You raise your voice, and there’s no taking it back now. Dr. Forehand and Dr. Long suggest talking to your children when you’ve calmed down after yelling. “It’s important to explain that Mommy or Daddy didn’t mean to raise their voice, and that they didn’t mean to get mad,” Dr. Forehand says. “Explain to them that it frustrates Mommy or Daddy when they don’t listen, and ask them to do better, and that you will, too.”

Copyright 2010 Meredith Corporation.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Staying Active as a Family

29 May

With summer break just around the corner, this has been top of mind for us.  Sad to say – we aren’t the most outdoorsy family – my wife and I went on an ‘easy’ one hour hike and it ended up taking two hours because we got lost.  We are trying!  I think becoming parents really shines a huge magnifying glass on what little issues one might have – and in our case – we’re not great exercisers or sporty people.  It’s easy to fall back to what you’re used to and leading your kids the same way – so we’ve been a lot more cognizant of raising our kids differently (although the last time our 5-year-old went hiking – she couldn’t quite understand why we were outdoors walking to no particular destination lol – we still got some work to do ;0) )  For this summer my wife and I have identified some goals – like swimming for our 5-year-old and maybe golf too, and lots of splash pad/playground time plus dance class for our toddler. There is fun in activities, learning, and also time to just veg out.

Hope you guys also have a great summer!

Staying Active as a Family

Family at the park

Keeping your family active can tax your imagination but it doesn’t need to tax your budget. Vacations, museum and zoo visits, movie nights, and craft sessions all have their place in your schedule but lively playtime has the added benefit of being healthy for everyone. The idea is to have fun, keep moving, and spend time together.

child and father on titter totter
Grounds For Action

With so many opportunities for children to participate in organized sports and events, it’s important to allow time for unstructured fun. Perhaps the easiest way to keep your family active is to take them to a playground; walk if possible for a little extra exercise. Teach children to use the equipment safely and encourage them to stretch their skills under your supervision.

Boy riding his bike
Riding High

Bicycling is a sport that kids and adults can enjoy together most months of the year. Start with short rides with frequent breaks for young children and make sure they understand good biking etiquette and the laws that govern public byways. More towns and cities are constructing bike paths that provide safer family outings for all ages and abilities. Be sure that all bikers wear well-fitting protective head gear.

Build It, They Will Come

Kids love to build things and the bigger, the better! Constructing forts is an activity that works indoors or out but outside gives you and your budding architects more scope. Not only does it foster problem-solving skills but it fuels the imagination as well. All the items you need can be found around the house: blankets, chairs, old rugs, leftover plywood, cardboard boxes. If you have a clothesline, you’ve already got a jumpstart as these make great armatures for draping blankets.

boys on scavenger hunt
On the Hunt

Stage a scavenger hunt for the whole family. You can make your list of common items for players to find from things found within your house and yard or you can enlarge it to encompass the neighborhood. For a neighborhood hunt, alert your neighbors or invite them to join the fun and make it a family competition. Team the youngest players with adults for safety.

playing in lawn sprinkler
Get Wet

Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best and they are often right outside your door. On a warm day, set up the lawn sprinkler or an inexpensive water slide, get everyone into swimsuits and let the fun begin. Even an effortless activity like this can have a powerful influence on the lives of young children and strengthen family bonds when shared with parents and older siblings.

Family swimming in pool
In the Swim

Swimming lessons are a great way for kids to get healthy exercise and learn how to enjoy water sports safely. But when the lessons are over, get the whole family in the pool together for games like water volleyball or basketball or just unstructured silliness and splashing around. Getting parents and older siblings in the pool, too, will help younger kids develop confidence and safe habits in the water.

potato sack race
Backyard Olympics

Organize a backyard track meet and get the neighborhood involved if you can or plan one in a nearby play park. Use talcum powder to set up race lanes in the grass and place flags at your start and finish lines. Run sack races and three-legged races pairing older and younger participants so that everyone has an equal chance to win. Set up a measuring stick and see who can jump the highest and the farthest. If you have a set of horseshoes, see who can toss them the farthest; use flags to mark everyone’s best try.

toddler wearing star sunglasses
Stage Right

If building a fort isn’t up your child’s alley, how about a backyard theater instead? Children love dressing up and pretending, so why not give them the chance to act out their favorite stories? Let everyone, even the youngest actor, get involved in the planning and finding elements for the stage and costumes. Your backdrop can be as unfussy as a blanket hung from a clothesline or a canvas painted with scenery.

Kids playing with red ball
Play Ball

Organized games and sports can fill a summer and are important for building teamwork and sportsmanship, but impromptu ball games in the yard or neighborhood can also help build skills and confidence in a less stressful environment and build family relationships at the same time. Rotate positions during the games so that everyone has a chance to expand their abilities.

boy washing car
Washed Up

Give the family a chore that’s also fun — a car wash. Pull out all the vehicles — even the little red wagon if it’s a bit dusty — grab the hose, and fill buckets with soapy water. Even toddlers can wash the lower panels of a car or the tires. Encourage safe water fights but make sure that everyone gets a turn with the hose! Hand around car towels to buff everything (and everyone!) to a squeaky clean shine.

Mom and daughter on nature hike
Take a Hike

Walk a nature trail at a local or state park. Have your child spot unusual plants (don’t allow them to touch them unless you’re sure they’re safe and never allow your children to pull up plants or flowers). See what animals you can find and identify. Bring a field guide to birds, binoculars, and a digital camera to record your success. Take along some compact refreshments to keep everyone quiet and focused on the task, but be sure to hang onto all disposables until you get home.

Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Our Thoughts on Discipline – Techniques to Tame Your Kid’s Tantrums

17 May

I guess we’re sort of lucky – both our kids (or at least more of our oldest one) – tended not to throw tantrums – I have to admit in our case it might be a mixture of genetics and attachment parenting.  When either child would start acting up I would wear them (in a baby/child carrier) and that would pretty much nip it in the bud – I swear my youngest is more temperamental because she’s bigger than her sister was at her age so I tend to shy away from carrying her all the time :0/ .  There are times with my toddler that things do seem to get out of hand real quick especially when I don’t understand her.  There is always a fine line between ‘giving in’ and responding positively to her needs being a stay at home mom – I really can’t tolerate growing levels of whining which tend to end in tantrums – because that would then take up most of my time – and with no ‘break’ away from my child I can’t exactly ‘leave’ to cool down myself – so I go out of my way to avoid a tantrum.  Before children, I never understood why parents were so anal about naps — well now I know.  It really IS important – having a schedule, making sure kids (and parents) are rested and having activities where the kids can expend energy are all very important.

10 Ways to Tame Your Kid’s Tantrums

preschooler hrowing fit

When your kid’s in the middle of a tantrum, it can be tough to keep yourself from having your own meltdown, too.
“Meltdowns are terrible, nasty things, but they’re a fact of childhood,” says Ray Levy, PhD, a Dallas-based clinical psychologist and co-author of Try and Make Me! Simple Strategies That Turn Off the Tantrums and Create Cooperation. “Young kids — namely those between the ages of 1 and 4 — haven’t developed good coping skills yet. They tend to just lose it instead.” And what, exactly, sets them off to begin with? Every single tantrum, Levy says, results from one simple thing: not getting what they want. “For children between 1 and 2, tantrums often stem from trying to communicate a need — more milk, a diaper change, that toy over there — but not having the language skills to do it,” says Levy. “They get frustrated when you don’t respond to what they’re ‘saying’ and throw a fit.” For older toddlers, tantrums are more of a power struggle. “By the time kids are 3 or 4, they have grown more autonomous,” Levy adds. “They’re keenly aware of their needs and desires — and want to assert them more. If you don’t comply? Tantrum city.”
So how can you stop these outbursts? What follows are 10 freak-out fixes that both parenting experts and other moms swear by.

toddler crying
Ignore the Kid

The reason this works is fascinating: “During a tantrum, your child is literally out of his mind. His emotions take over — overriding the frontal cortex of the brain, the area that makes decisions and judgments,” says Jay Hoecker, MD, a Rochester, Minnesota, pediatrician. “That’s why reasoning doesn’t help — the reasoning part of his brain isn’t working.” Says Alan Kazdin, PhD, author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child, “Once you’re in a situation where someone’s drowning, you can’t teach them to swim — and it’s the same with tantrums. There’s nothing to do in the moment that will make things better. In fact, almost anything you try will make it worse. Once he chills out, then you can talk.”

toddler crying
Give Your Child Some Space

“Sometimes a kid just needs to get his anger out. So let him!” says Linda Pearson, a nurse practitioner and author ofThe Discipline Miracle. (Just make sure there’s nothing in tantrum’s way that could hurt him.) “I’m a big believer in this approach because it helps children learn how to vent in a nondestructive way. They’re able to get their feelings out, pull themselves together, and regain self-control — without engaging in a yelling match or battle of wills with you.” This trick can work on its own or in tandem with the whole ignoring bit.

girl with cookie jar
Create a Diversion

This is all about a deft mental switcheroo — getting your kid engaged and interested in something else so she forgets about the meltdown she was just having. “My purse is filled with all sorts of distractions, like toys — ones my kids haven’t seen in a while, books, and yummy snacks,” says Alisa Fitzgerald, a mom of two from Boxford, Massachusetts. Whenever a tantrum happens, she busts ’em out, one at a time, until something gets the kids’ attention. “I’ve also found that distraction can help ward off a major meltdown before it happens, if you catch it in time,” she adds. If your kid is about to go off the deep end at the supermarket because you won’t buy the super-frosted sugar-bomb cereal, try quickly switching gears and enthusiastically saying something like, “Hey, we need some ice cream. Want to help me pick a flavor?” or “Ooh, check out the lobster tank over there!” Explains Levy: “Children have pretty short attention spans — which means they’re usually easy to divert. And it always helps if you sound really, really psyched when you do it. It gets their mind off the meltdown and on to the next thing that much faster.” Fitzgerald agrees: “You have to channel your inner actress and be an entertainer — one with props!”

Find Out What’s Really Frustrating Your Kid

This trick is for tantrums among the under-2-and-a-half set, says Dr. Hoecker. “Children this age usually have a vocabulary of only about 50 words and can’t link more than two together at a time. Their communication is limited, yet they have all these thoughts and wishes and needs to be met. When you don’t get the message or misunderstand, they freak out to release their frustration.” One solution, he says: sign language. Teaching your child how to sign a few key words — such as more, food, milk, and tired — can work wonders.
Another approach is to empathize with your kid, which helps take some of the edge off the tantrum, and then play detective. “My 22-month-old throws tantrums that can last up to — yikes! — 20 minutes,” says Melanie Pelosi, a mom of three from West Windsor, New Jersey. “We’ve taught her some words in sign language, but if she wants something like a movie, she won’t know how to ask for it — and still freaks out. So I say, ‘Show me what you want,’ and then I see if she’ll point to it. It’s not always obvious, but with a little time and practice you begin to communicate better. If she points to her older brother, for example, that usually means that he’s snatched something away from her, and I can ask him to give it back. I can’t tell you how many awful, drawn-out meltdowns we’ve avoided this way!”

big hug

“This may feel like the last thing you want to do when your kid is freaking out, but it really can help her settle down,” Levy says. “I’m talking about a big, firm hug, not a supercuddly one. And don’t say a word when you do it — again, you’d just be entering into a futile battle of wills. Hugs make kids feel secure and let them know that you care about them, even if you don’t agree with their behavior.” Cartwright Holecko, of Neenah, Wisconsin, finds that it helps: “Sometimes I think they just need a safe place to get their emotions out.”

toddler sleeping
Offer Food or Suggest a Little R&R

“Being tired and hungry are the two biggest tantrum triggers,” says Levy. Physically, the kid is already on the brink, so it won’t take much emotionally to send him over. “Parents often come to me wondering why their child is having daily meltdowns. And it turns out they’re happening around the same time each day — before lunch or naptime and in the early evening. It’s no coincidence! My advice: feed them, water them, and let them veg — whether that means putting them to bed or letting them watch a little TV.” Think how cranky you get when you miss out on sleep or your blood sugar hits rock bottom, he says. With young kids, who have greater sleep and food needs, the effect is magnified tenfold.

child holding ice cream bar
Give Your Kid Incentive to Behave

Certain situations are trying for kids. Maybe it’s sitting through a long meal at a restaurant or staying quiet in church. Whatever the hissy hot button, this is the trick: “It’s about recognizing when you’re asking a lot of your child and offering him a little preemptive bribe,” Pearson says. “While you’re on your way to the restaurant, for example, tell him, ‘Alex, Mommy is asking you to sit and eat your dinner nicely tonight. I really think you can do it! And if you can behave, then when we get home I’ll let you watch a video.'” For the record, Pearson says this kind of bribery is perfectly fine, as long as it’s done on your terms and ahead of time — not under duress in the middle of a tantrum. If your kid starts to lose it at any point, gently remind him about the “treat” you discussed. “It’s amazing how this can instantly whip them back into shape,” says Pearson.

Speak Calmly

This is a biggie — and is much easier said than done. But experts insist you must keep your cool during a child’s tantrum. “Otherwise, you’ll get into a power struggle and make the whole thing escalate. Plus, part of the reason kids resort to tantrums is to get attention,” Dr. Hoecker says. “They don’t care if it’s positive or negative attention they’re getting. All they care about is that you’re giving them 100 percent of it.” Levy agrees, and adds: “Talking in a soothing voice shows your child that you’re not going to let her behavior get to you. It also helps you stay relaxed — when what you really want to do is yell right back. In fact, the calm tone is as much for the parent as the child! If you’re tense, your kid will pick up on it, and it’s going to amp her up even more.”

crying girl with mom
Laugh It Off

Every parent dreads public tantrums, for obvious reasons. You worry other parents will think you’re a bad mom — that you’ve raised an out-of-control demon child. But that, says Kazdin, can tempt you to make choices that will only lead to more fits. “Kids, even very young ones, are smart,” he says. “If you get angry or stressed or cave in and let him get his way just to end the meltdown before more people start staring, he’ll learn that — aha! — it works.” Your best bet, Kazdin says, is to suck it up, plaster a little Mona Lisa smile on your face, and pretend everything is just peachy. And what are others thinking? “We know from studies that the only thing people judge is your reaction to the meltdown,” says Levy. “If you look calm and like you’ve got it under control — yes, even though you’re not doing anything to stop the fit — they think, Now that’s a good mom.”

holding child
Get Out of There

Getting kids away from the scene of the tantrum can snap them out of it. “It’s also a great strategy when you’re out and about,” says Levy. “If your child starts melting down over a toy or candy bar he wants, pick him up and take him either to a different area of the store or outside until he calms down. Changing the venue really can change the behavior.”
Originally published in the October 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Raising a Well-Rounded Kid…How? Now?

22 Apr

This article really resonated with me.  I am a big believer that with parenting sometimes the little things are what matter.  Eating meals together, praising efforts,  encouraging special skills are what we aim to do almost everyday as parents.  These are things that seem easy or common sense enough, but are actually things that need ‘working on’ in order to succeed.  It’s funny, our 5 year-old to most people may seem pretty well-rounded as a child, but it took a lot of trial-and-error and soul-searching together for her to achieve her balance in life (yes, even at 5).  She is a happy violinist and a pretty advanced reader – what it took for us to get there was chucking soccer aside (she hated it) and swimming (not a fan), and changing pre-schools twice before finding the right fit.  The hard part is that we did not go all tiger-parent on her and enforce the violin practices or sat with her to force-feed reading.  It happens pretty organically when you trip-upon what works and follow the child’s interests.

A good parent aims for a well-balanced child – because a well-balanced child tends to be a happier child.  What we found is that a mix of listening (really listening) to your child’s interests, wants and needs, as well as knowing when to trace-back and start a new path builds a good foundation for the beginning stages of fulfilling your child’s potential as a total person.

Below is the article from Parents.Com (one of my favorite parenting resources!).

7 Ways to Raise a Well-Rounded Kid

Girl on bed

The key to raising a well-rounded child is to establish a solid support system at home so that she grows up satisfied with her achievements and ambitions. “The goal as a parent is to help your child feel competent and confident, and to help her develop a sense of passion and purpose,” says Susan Stiffelman, MFT, an educational therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles. It’s the education that happens before she sets foot into school that is crucial in bringing up such a child.

“If you want to enhance your child’s learning abilities to eventually boost her academic performance, it will take consistency, dedication, and patience,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., an advisor for Parents and the author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. Consider these seven techniques if you’re looking to raise a child who is well-balanced, healthy, and happy with her accomplishments.

Children taking karate lessons
Encourage Special Skills

Every child has unique gifts and talents. These special attributes can show up in a traditional school setting, but there are plenty of children who shine after the final bell has rung for the day. Activities like a mommy-and-me music class or karate lessons can open their minds, but your wallet does’t need to be involved. “Do not underestimate the power of unstructured play,” says Stiffelman. Playing catch in the yard, dancing in the living room, and chasing after lightning bugs provide opportunities for intellectual, physical, and personal development. Stiffelman also suggests finding a hobby or two for yourself. “Allowing your child to see you trying something new may inspire her to do the same.”

father giving son high five
Applaud and Praise Efforts

Research conducted by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and a leading researcher in the field of achievement and success, discovered that a person’s mind-set can influence behavior. When it comes to parenting, she suggests praising your child for his hard work instead of labeling him as “smart” or “talented.” People with a fixed mind-set are usually reluctant to take on challenges because they believe their achievements come from innate abilities. Those with a growth mind-set are usually more willing to face challenges with hard work because they believe in always learning new skills. “Above all, keep in mind that the grade is not what motivates a top student to succeed — it’s his inner drive for learning,” adds Borba.

Child doing homework

Just because you need complete silence while typing an e-mail or balancing your checkbook doesn’t mean your child needs a noise-free environment when doing his homework. Harvard researcher Howard Gardner established eight kinds of intelligences, or ways kids learn best, some that include musical, logical-mathematical, linguistic, and interpersonal traits. The trick is to pay attention to how your child learns best so you can identify her specific learning style. For example, if your school-age child is visual, consider using flash cards when she’s trying to memorize multiplication tables. If your child falls into the interpersonal intelligence category (that is, he has people smarts), help him improve his vocabulary by connecting descriptive words to people like friends, relatives, and historical figures.

child reading
Read, Read, Read

When it comes to picking up a book and having story time with your kid, there is no such thing as starting too early. Reading to preschoolers — and keeping books at home — encourages language development, reading skills, and future success in school. “Even if your child is still too young to understand everything you’re saying, he will learn to notice the rhythms of language, which will help him build a listening vocabulary,” explains Susan M. Heim, author ofIt’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence. In fact, reading to your child has been proven to help him emotionally: A government-funded study conducted by The Institute of Education in the United Kingdom found that 5-year-olds who were read to daily by their parents were less likely to have behavioral problems in school.

family eating
Eat Dinner Together

Don’t worry if cooking isn’t your strongest skill — your child will reap the educational and emotional rewards from conversation, not chicken cacciatore. “Informal discussion topics (‘How was your day?,’ ‘What are you discussing in science?’ ‘How will you study for that test?’) lets your child know your family values learning,” explains Borba. A study conducted by Columbia University showed that children who eat at least five meals a week with their families are more likely to achieve higher grades in school and are less likely to develop an eating disorder. If everyone in your home is on a different schedule and can’t enjoy dinner at the same time, find another meal (like breakfast or an evening snack) when your family can sit together and review the day’s events.

mother putting child to bed
Balance Bedtime

Establishing a bedtime — and keeping to it every single night — can be highly effective, but Borba further suggests turning off the computer and TV at least 30 minutes beforehand. If your child has access to a cell phone, she recommends taking it before bedtime because “62 percent of kids admit they use it after the lights go out — and their parents are clueless!” In 2005 researchers at Tel Aviv University found that missing just one hour of sleep can be enough to reduce a child’s cognitive abilities by almost two years the following day. Borba says that a sixth grader who loses precious zzz’s the night before a big test could end up performing at a fourth- grade level.

mother and daughter
Dole Out Endless Hugs

Giving your child a number of hugs throughout the day will help ease any tension she may be feeling. “There’s nothing like the human touch to give a child a sense of security,” says Heim. Studies of neglected children have shown that kids who don’t receive affection can suffer from chronic stress, which can disturb the parts of the brain involved in focusing, learning, and memory. A study in the American Journal of Public Health, published in 2005, reports that touching another person gently has the power to alleviate symptoms — emotional, behavioral, and physical — related to stress. Not only will hugging your little one improve her ability to concentrate, it will also have benefits for you (and make you feel like a million bucks).

Yep, I have a Daddy’s Girl…maybe two!

5 Apr

I’ve always had a close relationship with my first daughter, but I swear it got even stronger when baby sister came along at the end of 2009.  I believe Julia, (now 5.75 years-old) at the age of 3.5 years-old, decided when baby Stella arrived that “since the baby has mommy for nursing, naps, diaper changes, etc., Daddy is MINE!

It’s has not really been a problem.  My wife and I try to make sure we each have 1 on 1 time with each of our daughters (taking turns for bath time, reading time, trips to the grocery store or library, trips to the park, etc.).  Sure, there are plenty of times when one of the girls is with one parent and then the other girl wants to be there too OR the other girl seeks out the other parent!

In a totally non-boastful way, if Julia is away from me for more than 2-3 days (my business trip or the girls and my wife take a vacation before me) she has reached her limit of daddy-less-ness after 3 days apart and will be more emotional/sensitive and usually have a mini-break down of “I want daddy.”  Geez, even earlier this week when I had a board of directors meeting and wasn’t home for dinner and not sure if I’d be back to tuck her into bed for the night and she had a mini melt down and cried and asked to have a family photo with daddy to hold in bed!  Yikes – my wife thinks it may border on the side of unhealthy (and she felt like chopped liver/evil step-mom)…we anticipate that Julia will grow out of it and remind ourselves to cherish these times as when our daughters are teenagers they may not want to be around us much 😦 .  But none the less, I have a true “Daddy’s Girl” and I love both my daughters with all my heart!

Stella is more attached to her mom, being a toddler who nursed for 25 months, at this young age she has that special connection with her stay at home mom.  I am blessed with my daughter’s and have a feeling Stella will be a “Daddy’s Girl” too!

Ways to Maximize Family Time!

26 Mar

With just two kids, my wife and I find home life a struggle at times.  Working, taking care of the house, our daughters, ourselves and trying to maintain some family social life is a tall order!  Hence, there is no time/room for a family pet of any kind right now!  Who are we kidding…we can barely keep our house plants happy!  Yikes!

The following article from Parents.Com  made me stop and think about the things we do try to do to balance our lives and ‘maximize family time.’


  • We have a cleaning lady that comes every week.  We are fortunate enough to be able to afford this expense and honestly, we rather spend time with our girls than mop the floors, clean the bathrooms, etc.  So the $60 a week is a great trade-off for us.
  • Our almost 6 year-old and 2 year-old daughters have their own kitchen drawers for their kid size plates, bowls, silverware and cups.  So, emptying the dishwasher together while breakfast is being made gives us family work time.  Plus, at this early age I want my kids to develop a sense of responsibility and contribution to the household/family.
  • Grocery shopping – we view having our older daughter manage the grocery list and help find/pick out things to be a form of quality time with mom or dad (and good practical life lesson).
  • Cooking and having our girls watch and help where they can provides us family time to chat while being productive.  If the meal is a bit too complicated for them to help with, we have their art & crafts table in the kitchen nook so we can all still be ‘together’ and chat while cooking and doodling 🙂
Time Savers
  • We typically do pick out everyone’s clothing the night before.  The girls enjoy helping daddy select his tie 🙂 and they get to help select their own clothes for the next day too.
  • After the girls are in bed, I usually prep for breakfast and their school lunches.  Getting some things laid out on the kitchen counter so the morning rush is not so rushed.
  • We also load the car with work and school bags at night.
  • For dry cleaning, we have one designated big bright yellow bag that all clothing that needs to go to the cleaners gets placed into.  So it’s simply the one bag for the cleaners every 7-10 days!
  • When it come to left overs, we package them up into single serving containers for school and work lunches.  Just grab and go from the fridge the next day or two!
  • We always have fruits and veggies in our diet each day – frozen veggies or canned fruit is still better than none!  So frozen broccoli, peas, corn and carrots are usually in our freezer.  For fruit, canned and single serving cups of diced peaches and mandarin oranges are in the pantry!
  • With kids come snacks, so it’s easy to open the bag of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and divide it up into plastic snack cups with tops for the quick grab and go.  Same thing with their travel cups and thermos for water, juice or milk in the fridge.
What tricks/tips do you utilize to maximize time with your family?  Please share your secrets by leaving a comment and read on for the Parents.Com article.  Thanks!

9 Ways to Maximize Family Time

family reading in bed

Cooking meals, doing laundry, and going to work are all essential, but they often mean less time for parents to spend with those they love most. A recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that women spend only slightly more time on household chores than men do, which shows that all parents are pulled in many directions. “Certainly work, marriage, kids, and feeding the family are all high priorities, but there are healthy approaches to all of these that don’t require moms to feel so out of control,” says Hollee Temple, co-author of Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood. Follow these practical tips to save time on everyday responsibilities and spend more time with your family.

Good Enough Is the New Perfect by Hollee Temple

to do list
Make Over Your To-Do List

Divide your to-do list into three categories: Don’t, Delegate, and Do. “There’s always one thing on your to-do list you know you’re not going to do. Cross it off,” says Stephanie Vozza, author of The Five-Minute Mom’s Club: 105 Tips to Make a Mom’s Life Easier. “Go through each item and ask yourself, ‘What happens if I don’t do this?’ If you’re doing a task out of guilt or habit, move it to the Don’t section.” Decide if someone else can do the tasks in the Delegate column. Could a spouse, babysitter, coworker or neighbor handle something? For the items that must get done, draw or put stickers of a happy face next to the things you like to do, a dollar sign by items that save or make money, and a clock next to tasks that will save time later, Vozza suggests. These symbols will remind you why these things matter.

The Five-Minute Mom’s Club by Stephanie Vozza

teenager vacuuming
Use What You’ve Got

Take advantage of every existing resource. Ask your babysitter to prep dinner, pick up the toys, or restock the diaper bag. Find out if your dry cleaner can pick up and deliver clothes or see if a diaper service or laundry service fits into your budget. Coordinate errands by location so that you can finish as many as possible in one trip. If friends or family members offer to help out, take them up on it — and don’t be shy in reaching out first for help. Assign specific tasks, like yard work or garage clean-out. Remember not to take too much advantage of one person’s generosity, and don’t forget to offer an incentive or a thank you, like a dinner invitation or a special IOU.

children holding laundry basket
Involve the Kids

You may be able to fold clothes and set the table faster than a 5-year-old can, but when you include the kids, you turn chores into bonding time while teaching valuable skills. “The job of a mother isn’t to be a personal assistant,” Vozza says. “A mother’s job is to teach a child to become independent.” Even a small child can put toys in a basket. Invent a family clean-up game, where adults and kids compete to see who can get the most done the fastest, or make up a family song to sing while you work together.

5 Ways to Motivate Kids to Do ChoresDownloadable Chore Charts

Labeled drawer organizer
Reduce Time-Wasters

If you spend hours each month looking for lost shoes or keys, create an organized system so that everyday items for each family member have a regular place. Set up hooks or a small basket near the door for house keys. Give each person (including parents!) a basket or cubby by the door with his or her name on it to hold coats or rain boots. To prevent morning stress, do a last-minute check before bedtime to ensure that the next day’s clothes and shoes are accessible. If you have to check work or personal e-mail, catch up on messages before the kids wake up in the morning or after their bedtime. The same goes for talking on the phone — wait until the kids are in bed before making or taking any missed calls.

9 Ways to Organize Messy AreasMommy Timesavers

Woman in headset typing on computer with daughter
Make Your Job Work for You

Productivity at work creates more relaxed time at home. Sometimes you can get more done outside the office. See if your company will let you arrive earlier (or later) at the office or let you work from home one day a week to reduce the commute. Before approaching your boss, check with coworkers or Human Resources to see if it’s a reasonable request. If business travel is taking too much time, suggest other solutions, such as skipping a trip, alternating travel with other coworkers, or participating via conference calls or Skype. When you are in the office and can’t cancel a meeting, clarify your next steps before it ends; this will reduce follow-up e-mails.

How to Balance Work and Family

woman on computer
Rely on Technology

Sign up for school or city e-mail or text alerts; you’ll get updates about snow days or transportation delays so you can prepare and plan for them. One-stop shopping sites such as Diapers.com and Soap.com allow you to save time and money by purchasing groceries and drugstore staples at the same time. To avoid scheduling conflicts and determine free time, program important dates — like parent-teacher conferences, school holidays, field trips and business trips — into the calendar on your smartphone. Download an app that will sync the entire family’s calendar across different phones.

Organize the Family CalendarHigh-Tech Mom Helpers

food in plastic Tupperware
Double Up Dinner

If you’re making lasagna, double the recipe and freeze one for later in the week. Steam extra vegetables and put them in the fridge to drop in a pasta salad the next day. Get creative by turning your leftover entrée into a sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch or mix extra fruit salad with cereal and yogurt for breakfast. Look online for recipes that are easy and family-friendly. Keep the freezer stocked with frozen veggies and fruits; they can save you from a last-minute dash to the grocery store if you’ve forgotten a side dish or dessert. It’s also okay to give yourself a break once a while by keeping a couple of frozen pizzas (choose veggie-heavy ones for more nutrition) on hand for those evenings when you need to stay late at work and don’t have time to cook.

10 Make-Ahead MealsHands-Off Cooking for Two Weeks

exhausted woman
Know Yourself and Your Priorities

When you give up trying to be perfect, you create more time. “Stop comparing yourself to the mythical supermom who has it all together at work and at home — she doesn’t exist,” Temple says. “Figure out what your priorities are and pursue those. Something has to give.” Each person’s priorities are different. Do the things that help you feel happy or less stressed. If you feel calmer with no papers on the dining room table, involve the kids in helping you clear it off. If you can live with a few stray papers, and would prefer to cook with the kids and try a new recipe, do that instead. “I don’t like to cook,” Vozza admits. “I thought if I tried hard enough, I could become the next Food Network star. Instead of changing who you are to match the task, change the task to match your lifestyle. Spend time on what’s important to you.”

Quiz: What’s Your Clutter Tolerance?

family playing card game
Create New Traditions

Don’t wait for holidays or vacations to connect. Sunday breakfast, Friday game night, weekend shopping, or gardening can bring the family together. “We dine out on the same night each week,” Vozza says. “We know not to schedule outside activities because it’s sacred family time.” Whatever tradition you choose, make sure everyone, including parents, honors a set time. Everyone should show up and unplug. No texting, no Facebook, and no TV. “Don’t let your schedule run you,” Vozza says. “Enjoy each other.”