some-days

It happens, our children are driving us up the wall and to be totally honest, we don’t want to be around them.  We don’t want to hear their voices.  (We don’t really like them) and it feels horrible.

We react differently when we feel this way and we want to get out of this cycle but they are just so annoying.

So practice gratitude around your child.

We know this makes a difference.  In another one of my favorite articles in the New York Times, the author talks about how a bad situation is flipped upside down when he invokes gratitude.  It can work with your kids too.  When you add in gratitude, your whole perspective will change. 

  • So while you are making breakfast, think about one thing that you love about your child.
  • Before you go to bed, write down one thing that you enjoyed about your child during the day
  • Your children may be pain in the necks, but remember what you do have, food on the table, a safe place to sleep, clean clothes to wear.  When we put things into perspective, it is easier to practice gratitude.
  • Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or a group that works with refugees.  When you give, you are also practicing gratitude and if your kids are old enough, have them participate too.

This is real.

When our kids are complete pains, we can really turn things around by practicing daily gratitude.

 

 

 

family dinner

I was talking with my husband about kids last night and how difficult it is to raise children with drugs, media, violence, diseases, addiction and all the other bad things out there in the world.  We were starting to feel a bit depressed when I remembered that there is one thing that you can do to guard your children against all that.

The Family Dinner

Here are the top 5 reasons why you need to have a family dinner with your children this week:

1) Connection

When you sit down at a dinner table, all facing each other, there will be conversation, questions, and connection.  You will build memories, vocabularies, world knowledge and just know more about each other.  This connection will be with your family through the thick and thin.

2) Screen-free

An important part of the family dinner is to turn off all screens.  Not only does this set a precedent for how to eat with others, it will carve out an automatic screen-free time where everyone can be in the present and not connected to something else.  

 

If there is just one change that you make to create a stronger family, more resilient kids and a better world (corny, I know, but it’s true) then have at least one family dinner this week!

 

3) Nutrition and picky eaters

Do you have picky eaters?  Family dinner is one of the many ways that you can help them, but the most important thing to remember, is no pressure.  When food is presented in an attractive way, everyone is eating it and everyone is happy and comfortable, children are more likely to try it.  That doesn’t mean that they will eat it, or like it, but if a child just tries a bite of food, science shows that after 20 tries, they will like the food.  So don’t pressure them, just enjoy the food yourself and over the years, your children will be less picky.

4) Family stories

One of my favorite New York Times article talks about how children who have more of a foundation can weather trauma better.  So if they have heard more stories about their family and know more details about their parents and their lives, then they have more tools in their toolbox when things get rough.

5) Routine

With routine, you build trust and create rituals that will ultimately build a foundation on which your child can grow.  One of my favorite routines is to have everyone take a deep breath before everyone starts eating (or once everyone is sitting at the table).  “In through your nose” *breathe* “Out through your mouth” *breathe* “Smell the flowers” *breathe* “blow out the candle”.  This daily exercise will not only help you as a parent to relax and ground yourself, but it also teaches your child essential calming skills.

sleep

I love reading about new studies and new ideas and this one is one of my favorites because it seems so obvious and yet I had never thought about it.  Last fall, the New York Times published an article that I have referred to many times about light and sleep.  

I read it the night that it came out and as we were falling asleep, my husband and I were talking about how light affects our sleep as well.  And then my husband said as he was drifting asleep, “Yep, that bright LED light in the boys room has always kept me up. I always thought it should be a more orange-ish light.”  Then he fell asleep. 

After he said that, I couldn’t sleep.  Was I unintentionally keeping my children from deep sleep by putting in a low energy LED night-light?  My mind raced forward 20 years where my children couldn’t get jobs because they didn’t do well in school because I’d put a bright night-light in their room when they were little.  So I got up and as my husband peacefully snoozed, I created an orange cover from construction paper and tape to put over the boy’s night-light.  I snuck in their room and changed their light from a bright blue light to a dimmed orange light.

The next morning and almost every morning since then, they have slept a half hour longer.  It may be in my head, but they seem better rested and happier children.

I would love to purchase the light bulb that is mentioned in the article, but since we aren’t about to buy every gadget that comes out to help kids, I have decided to try to make my own night light. 

In researching this, I read that having no night-light in the bedroom is actually the best for inducing sleep.  So if you have older children with no fears of the dark, you can slowly move the light out of the room by moving it to plugs that are further away and then covering the light with more and more paper until it is dark.  Then have a light in the hallway for night wakings.

But if you have a younger child or a child who is afraid of the dark, then try some different ways to make the light dimmer and more orange.  And if you have the extra cash and want to see how well the advertised bulb works, then I’d love to hear how it works! 

 

social media

Right now I’m reading an interesting book (with a boring title), Parenting Well in a Media Age by Gloria DeGaetano.  It is stirring up so many thoughts and ideas about raising children in our day and age.

First of all, things are very different now than they were just 30 years ago.  We are part of a very media centered culture and it is often how we connect ourselves to the world.

BUT.. our children are what connects us to the world.

Put down your phone, set aside a specific time to be on your computer and unplug so that you can plug into your children.  There are days when I am jealous of my childless friends, but that only lasts for a minute (and usually happens when I am on Facebook) because as soon as I plug into my children, I become more connected to the world.  I connect to the clouds outside; I connect to the truck drivers driving by; I connect to the neighbors who are also out on a walk.

There are many benefits to having children, but I am realizing as the world gets more are more media centered, that the biggest benefit is that kids pull us away from that corporate-created fake online world into the amazing and crazy real life world.

So what does this have to do with my biggest fear of raising children?  I have absolutely no idea how to raise a child in a world dictated by media.  Even the problems that teenagers are experiencing today will be obsolete.  New problems haven’t even been invented yet.

It is the scariest feeling, but I think I know one solution.  Plug into your kids.  The more you are connected to them today, the better you will be connected tomorrow.

The New York Times recently published an article that I can’t get out of my mind.  It spoke about how children who had heard more stories about their family, had an easier time dealing with conflict, trauma and other difficulties.  The idea was that they had deeper roots and a stronger connection to their past and who they were.

I think the same idea transfers over to how controlled your children are by media.  If they have a strong connection to their world, they will be less inclined to live in a media world.

So start today, have a “no devices at the table rule” where you put down all screens and devices while people are eating at the table.  This rule applies to meals at home and meals out at a restaurant.  This rule will be easy to enforce with teenagers if it is what they had when they were growing up.

Then, once you have that rule in place and it feels pretty stable, add in “Screen-Free-Saturday” or “Screen-Free-Sunday” and put down all screens for an entire day.  We have tried it twice and are working towards it being a regular part of our routine (not there yet!).  But it amazes me how much more plugged in to my kids and my husband I am after spending an entire day away from a screen.

So if you have the same fears about how you will deal with a teenager and social media, then start building a connection with your young child today to help weather the social media storms of tomorrow.

flowers2

I just wrote a post on positive mind-sets after reading this article in the New York Times and it is so provocative that I still can’t stop thinking about it and all the implications.

But it gets tricky when you change a couple of words to be more positive because we also know that praise can ultimately make children and adults less motivated rather than more motivated.

So now we just need to tease out the differences since we know the power of just one single word.  And really, this difference is big enough that if you take notice and change what you say starting today, you will make a huge difference in your child’s life.

So let’s start at the base level and move up from there:

Praise consist of adjectives: beautiful, smart, great, wonderful, perfect, fast, pretty, etc.

Positive mind-set consists of verbs: run, sing, draw, breathe, play, swim, jump, dance, write, and so on.

Let’s go back to the article and look at one of the adult examples which I believe is so fascinating.  They worked with a bunch of housekeepers who said that they didn’t have enough time to get in good exercise and be healthy.  So they took some of them and told them how many calories each task burned (vacuuming burns this many calories, making beds burns that many) and without changing anything else in their lives, the housekeepers who had a different mind-set lost weight.

Now they just acknowledged the action of the housekeepers which is what made them healthier.  They didn’t try to change the mindset by saying, “You are thin!” But they did change the mind-set by saying, Your work burns calories”.

Children are the same: you can change their whole outlook by  acknowledging their actions.  However, you can also kill their motivation by praising them.

Let’s break it down another way:

If you say: “Oh, look at you- you look soo pretty!” (Which by the way, you should never say for so many reasons, so if you do, stop right now!” Adjective= praise)

Change it to: “Oh look at you- did you pick out your clothes all by yourself?” (Action= positive mind-set)

If you say: “What a beautiful picture!” (Adjective= praise)

Change it to: “You chose to draw with so many colors!” (Action= positive mind-set)

Another article I read that really resonated with me was from Hands Free Mama titled Six Words You Should Say Today which is specifically about kids and sports but can be used with school work, arts, or any activity and is perfect for steering away from praise and towards positive mind-set.

The six words are: “I love to watch you (fill in the action)”.

It is that simple.  Just acknowledging the action and that it makes you smile.

Nothing more.

The takeaway:

No more praise.  No more adjectives.  Acknowledge the action and watch how your kids change.

 

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This article in the New York Times has been out for a couple of days but it really took me a while to read it because I know that mindset affects age.

Everyone knows that.

If you think you are younger, you’ll feel a little bit younger.  

What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set?


But the results in some of the studies in this article are mind blowing!  You can lose weight, be younger, be happier just by changing one word in your vocabulary.

But one thing they don’t mention is children and I think it is even more poignant how children can change through perspective.

Imagine– if adults can physically lose weight just from believing that they are healthier, what would happen to your child’s behavior if they thought they were great kids.

Here’s a scenario (imagined only after you read the whole article): You are at a friend’s house and a mom with a toddler walks in and says, “Oh man, Let me sit down a second before my son starts tearing up the whole house and breaking things.”

And within five minutes, he is running around and trying to get things to throw.

Here’s scenario number two: The same friend’s house, and the same mother walks in with her toddler and the friend says, “Should I get these things out of your way so that he can’t reach them?” And the mom responds, “No, he is very respectful and your things will be fine.”  And even if in five minutes the toddler starts to reach for something (which he probably won’t), the mom can remind him, “no touching, that’s not ours”.

In the first scenario, the mom is setting her child up for poor behavior, however in the second scenario, the same mom is setting up the same child for success!

What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

I have twins boys so just about everywhere I go, I hear, “Are they twins?  Wow, they must be a handful!”  

Can you imagine?  All my boys’ life they have been hearing that they are a handful which is a really nice way to say that they are difficult.   

But get this, I always respond, “A handful of love!

So for their three long years, they have been hearing about how they are full of love every time they meet a stranger.

You can change your child’s behavior by changing the words you use around them, to describe them, and when you ask them to do things.

This isn’t about praise, I’m not telling you to start telling your children that they are smart, or that their picture is beautiful.  I’ll talk about praise another day, this is about changing one or two words in how you describe your child to other people and how you set their course and give them the perspective that they are good kids!

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gratitude

With Thanksgiving fast approaching and the warm feeling of holidays creeping up on me, I feel compelled to write about gratitude.

I see lots of people talking about feeling thankful and being grateful and I love the reminders.  It is so important to be thankful and to express gratitude.  

I love this article from New York Times which talks about the physical changes that your body encounters from expressing gratitude.  Better sleep, less anxiety, acting kinder and feeling happier are all results of the simple act of being thankful.  It is a couple of years old, but deserves to be revisited. 


It is something that we can do for the month of November but since the month is coming up on a close, start practicing it now and then try to refresh your gratitude as the winter continues on into the spring.  It can be part of your dinner conversation or can be done right before bed as part of the bedtime routine.

“What are you thankful for?”  Or even “what was the best part of your day?” can be a reminder to what you appreciate in your life.  Life gets tough, life gets rough.  Children start fussing and crying, bills pile up and sometimes it seems like everything is going against you.  But just looking at one thing that did go right today can change things around.  It helps your shift your perspective.   Even if all you can muster out is “the best part of my day was the corn dog.”   Then smile at the corndog and know that you just changed your life physically and mentally.

Be thankful for all the big things and all the small things (especially the small things) in your life and then watch this video:



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unplug

We instinctively know what is best for our children and ourselves which doesn’t explain hours spent on pinterest, watching bad TV or eating tons of chocolate.  But we do need to tap into those instincts as we raise our little ones and keep our time with the screen as little as possible.
An article in the New York Times has some interesting findings.  It talks about a nerve that connects the heart to the brain.  This nerve was always thought of as static and unchanging.  It is a nerve that sends signals back and forth from the brain to the heart and part of those signals are how we interact with other humans.  The nerve changes depending on how much time we spend with other people. So a quick synopsis of the article says that the more human interaction we have, the healthier hearts we have. 
It goes way deeper than that, but as a parent, we don’t always have time to read about the intricacies of our nervous system.  What we do have time to find out is that we need to get off our phones when we are around our babies.  They have found that babies who are breastfed with distracted mothers have more behavior and now cardiovascular problems.  
So we can start tuning into our babies and kids starting tomorrow.  It will make us healthier and our children happier and healthier.
Two ideas that you can implement tomorrow are to have a a “no devices at the table” rule where if you eat a meal together as a family, under no circumstances can a phone be used.  (Trust me, situations will arise that a phone will seem obligatory, but you can live without it).  The other idea is to have an entire unplugged day.  I love this idea, haven’t implemented it myself, but would love to someday.
This may seem like small stuff, but all of this technology is very new. We don’t know what it is doing to us, but we do know how important we are to each other; especially as children and parents.
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