Raise an Independent Kid

It may be hard to hear, but there are times when your child is better off without you.

By Michael Thomspon, Ph.D. from Parents Magazine

For the last decade, I’ve worked as a consulting psychologist for a canoetripping camp in Canada. Every summer, I listen to kids tell horror stories about their first five-day canoe trip — getting stuck in mud, caught in thunderstorms, or attacked by mosquitoes. Having completed one of the scariest trips of their life, they look triumphant. But they also talk about having felt overwhelmed and unsure whether they’d be able to do it.

At many points in our children’s lives, we need to step aside, ask other adults to take over, and even send our children away in order to help them become loving, productive, moral, and independent young adults. For me, these four adjectives capture the universal goals of parenting. However, I have spoken with many parents who, out of the deepest love for their children, want to do more, not less, for them. They believe that the more time, energy, attention, and money they can devote to their children, the better.

In the final analysis, there are important things that we can’t do for our children, as much as we might want to. In order to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to take the lead, and usually away from us.

1. We can’t make our children happy.

We wrap our arms around them. We want to protect our kids from all bad feelings, but struggle and suffering are part of life and children need to learn to manage their own emotions. As a child, you don’t know exactly what you feel when you’re with your parents because you interpret your experiences through their reactions. Away from home, it’s easier for children to learn what they hate and what they love, what makes them miserable and what makes them happy, because they are having experiences on their own.

2. We can’t give our children high self-esteem.

After promoting self-esteem for two decades, we are seeing more depression and anxiety in young people, not higher levels of self-confidence. It turns out that telling kids they are great all the time doesn’t help them that much; instead, it makes them suspicious of adults because they can see that they’re not as good at doing some things as other kids are. Self-esteem comes from building skills and mastering challenging tasks on their own. Your child’s greatest sense of achievement may come from succeeding in a situation where he had tasted defeat, had been really upset, and then had come back to triumph.

3. We can’t make friends for our children or micromanage their relationships.

Even when they’re babies, certain children are powerfully attracted to each other. Although we can arrange playdates, kids teach each other how to be friends. I would argue that the best friendships are the ones a child makes on her own with someone she’s met at school or in an after-school activity. “Mom, I made a new friend,” is one of the signature shouts of a child’s independence. You can support your child’s friendships, give the kids a place to hang out, and order the pizza, but you can’t control her relationships.

4. We can’t successfully be our children’s manager or coach.

When you and your child share a natural gift — be it for sports, music, or math — it may seem logical to play coach. Managing the peewee soccer team is one thing, but few parents can guide their child’s career to a high level without damaging their relationship. Parents already have so much power in their children’s lives, to add the role of coach tips the balance in a way that puts a child’s mental health at risk. I’ll never forget the boy I knew who quit the varsity basketball team in his senior year just to punish his sports-mad father. “That’s all he cares about in my life,” the boy said. Wise parents turn the job of coaching over to someone else they trust.

5. We can’t compete with our children’s electronic world.

We are living in the midst of a technological revolution that is dramatically changing family life. Parents ask me all the time about how they can limit their child’s use of electronic devices. However, all of us are spending equal amounts of time in front of screens — and children will do what we do, not what we say. In the last five years, the only place I haven’t seen children using cell phones is sleepaway camp, and they thrive. The lesson of living simply is one that children need to learn, and one that parents with a house full of gadgets are having trouble teaching.

6. We can’t keep our children completely safe, but we can drive them crazy trying.

We watch the news and worry about all the terrible things that can happen to our kids. One mother of three children, ages 11, 8, and 7, told me that they live only three blocks from school. “I know I should let my kids walk, but I just can’t,” she said. She believed she’s depriving them of an important childhood experience, but she’s only doing what most American parents are doing. Forty years ago, 41 percent of children walked to school; now only 13 percent do. Kids have also lost ten to 12 hours of free play per week. Many aren’t allowed to roam in the woods or even play in their own backyard; instead, they sit indoors near their parents, watching TV or using the computer. Parents are trying to do a good job of raising their children, but our constant focus on safety is making us anxious and suffocating our kids’ capacity for independence.

7. We can’t make our children independent.

A high-school swimming coach told me that her tenth-graders show up at meets without their goggles and say, “My mom must not have put them in my gym bag.” When 15-year-olds can’t remember their goggles, is it because they are disorganized or because their mother is doing their remembering for them? Every child needs to practice being independent, and every parent needs to practice letting her child be independent. Independence is like high jumping: You have to run and jump and sometimes fail, and then put the bar back up and run and jump again. As a parent, you’ll wince when your kids hit that bar, but you can’t jump for them. Ultimately, they’ll have a lot of sweet moments without you there to see them. But if you believe that your job is to raise your children so they will be ready to leave you, you need to be able to let them go and watch from a distance.

Keyboards are overrated.

Cursive is back and it’s making us smarter

The proliferation of devices in daily life has led to an international handwriting crisis. Teachers, parents, and politicians around the world are debating why they should bother spending time teaching what some say is a dated skill. Accustomed as we are to speedy, wifi-connected devices, we’ve come to prize the efficiency of typing and there seems to be no point to picking up a pen and scribbling on paper when keyboarding is so convenient, neat, and easy to copy-and-send.

Yet print and its squiggly cousin cursive are making a comeback in some US schools after scientific studies have proven their cognitive utility and because parents are clamoring for the preservation of the practical skill. For example, starting this fall in Louisiana, third to 12th graders will again study penmanship after a law was passed making it a requirement in 2016 (teachers got one year to prepare). Fourteen states in total are now including cursive in curricula after a decade where it seemed doomed to become an abandoned and outdated art.

Busting penmanship myths

It’s not just nostalgia—the efficiency of the keyboard may be overstated, at least in some cases.
“There’s a myth that in the era of computers we don’t need handwriting. That’s not what our research is showing. What we found was that children until about grade six were writing more words, writing faster, and expressing more ideas if they could use handwriting—printing or cursive—than if they used the keyboard,” University of Washington professor Virginia Berninger told the Washington Post. A leading expert in the field of handwriting education research, Berninger’s extensive work with students in elementary school indicates that learning handwriting improves kids’ ability to think.

The reasons for taking handwriting seriously are worth considering even if you’re not a kid or a parent worried about education. Anyone can benefit from penmanship’s cognitive benefits, whether you’re taking notes at a meeting or just trying to figure out what you think.

Engaging the brain

Brain scans during the two activities also show that forming words by hand as opposed to on a keyboard leads to increased brain activity(pdf). Scientific studies of children and adults show that wielding a pen when taking notes, rather than typing, is associated with improved long-term information retention, better thought organization, and increased ability to generate ideas.

No one can say why this is exactly, though researchers surmise one reason may be because when we write by hand, every letter of every word demands different actions, engaging the brain more. When we type, we repeat the same moves over and over again, whatever the word.

It may well be that the physicality of shaping letters cements concepts in the mind. For example, to type the word “typing,” I made the same motion on the keyboard six times, choosing which letter to type but not forming them. But if I were to write the same thing by hand, I’d have to shape six different letters and put them together. That takes more effort and seems to both demand more of the brain and leave a deeper imprint on the mind than typing. That imprint appears to be critical when learning new things.

Making choices while we write

Another reason that penning is more effective than typing seems to stem from handwriting’s limitations. Handwriting when taking notes forces us to make choices.

Researchers from Princeton University concluded in three studies of adult students taking notes on laptops and in longhand that transcription was less effective than selective translation of the information. “We found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand…whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning,” they wrote.

Perhaps when we capture less of what is said verbatim, we pay more attention. Since we can’t scribble everything that’s being said as fast as we can type it, we end up forced to make choices when handwriting, processing the information as we take it in instead of putting it all down automatically.

Reading into the past and future

There are practical reasons to keep the art of penmanship alive, putting questions of cognition aside.

Louisiana state senator Beth Mizell introduced the cursive bill at a constituent’s suggestion after he told her that the high school students he hired for summer jobs couldn’t read old handwritten land-transfer documents. (She didn’t give details about what these particular jobs involved, but it is true, generally speaking, that even when old records are scanned into new computerized systems, they may still contain cursive.

Mizell also heard from parents that their kids couldn’t read old family letters or even sign documents. “People were really upset that kids were no longer being taught to write cursive,” she told the Shreveport Times. “They print where the signature would be. It’s just little things like that.”

Take it from the greats

For adults wondering why they should handwrite when they have no time, rarely have to take in information that comes in lecture form, and have already established a signature, there are also some unscientific reasons to pick up a pen. For one, great writers often drafted by handand then typed, even after the advent of the typewriter—Susan Sontag, Truman Capote, and Vladimir Nabokov, to name a few. Today, Joyce Carol Oates continues with this tradition, though she’s also on Twitter and doesn’t shirk technology generally. Same goes for Quentin Tarantino, who says poetry can’t be typed on a computer, and Neil Gaiman, whose novels are drafted in notebooks.

Plus, there’s the priceless benefit of limiting distraction. Technology can be a trap. The simple act of shutting your laptop and putting pen to paper can help you to improve focus. There’s less chance you’ll end up spending your time online reading tweets and articles when you should be writing.

Listen Up! How to Get Kids to Listen to You

By Jeannette Moninger from Parents Magazine

Stop repeating yourself. Your child will be all ears once you start following these clever, attention-getting tips from the pros.

Ever notice how your child’s bionic ears pick up every word of your “private” conversations, yet when you really need him to listen it’s like he’s switched off his hearing? “Between school and home, kids this age commonly grow tired of paying attention and decide they need to tune out,” says Doreen Miller, a parent educator at the Institute for Parenting at Adelphi University, in Garden City, New York. But you need your kid to listen, so tailor the way you’re delivering the message to prevent a communication failure. Try these tips to break your child’s sound free barrier.

A void Information Overload

Your child’s brain can only process so much. Hit her with too many details — “Turn off the TV, then go upstairs, get changed, brush your teeth, and comb your hair” — and she won’t be able to recall anything past step one or two. Be too vague — “Get ready for bed” — and she won’t take your request seriously, or chances are she’ll probably skip a couple of steps. Instead, split your request into two parts, suggests Miller. Start with something like, “When Arthur is over, it’s time to turn off the TV and get ready for bed.” Then once the TV is off, continue with, “Okay, honey, pj’s
and tooth brushing are next. Do you want to skip or hop into the bathroom?”

Be Direct

When you dwell on a topic for too long, your child will tune out. For instance, if you say, “Honey, we’re meeting Julius in the park and you’ll want to climb at the playground. So you have to change out of your sandals before we leave home,” it’s unlikely that he’ll change into appropriate shoes. Instead, be concise and make the request up front: “Honey, put on your sneakers now because we’re going to the playground.”

Work on Your Delivery

Your child will listen better if you engage more than just her sense of hearing. A visual approach (looking her in the eye) combined with a tactile one (placing your hands on her shoulders) can help her focus better on what you’re saying, says Margret Nickels, Ph.D., director of the Center for Children and Families at the Erikson Institute, in Chicago. When Gractia Manning, of Dayton, Ohio, wants to make sure her 6-year-old daughter, Kate, is listening, she’ll ask her to repeat what she heard. “In the past, if I said ?There’s no eating in the family room while the babysitter’s here,’ Kate would say okay and then later — after she’d broken the rule — claim that she never heard me say that,” explains Manning.

Don’t Sound Like a Broken Record

If you feel like you’re saying the same things over and over, stop. Kids can become conditioned to wait to respond until you’ve said something for the fifth time. “Your words become nothing but background noise,” says Dr. Nickels. Besides, your child’s teacher doesn’t spend all day repeating herself, so why should you? Your kid will be more inclined to do what’s asked of him if he understands that his actions have clear, enforceable consequences. Give him specific instructions no more than twice, and be sure to follow through with appropriate disciplinary actions if he doesn’t comply. For instance, to get don’t sound your child to pick up his Legos you might say, “Jake, please go upstairs and put your Lego pieces in the blue bin.” If he doesn’t listen to you, warn him that he won’t be able to play with the Legos for the rest of the day if he doesn’t clean up, says Dr. Nickels. If he still blows off your request, take away the Legos. On the flip side, acknowledge when he follows directions the first time. Saying “Thanks for being a good listener” will reinforce his desire to pay attention.

Make Listening a Game

Your child spends a significant portion of her day being talked to – and that’s tiresome. Sometimes little ears need to tune in to some fun. Fine-tune your child’s listening skills by exposing her to a variety of auditory experiences. Take a walk together and listen for sounds like birds or insects, the wind in the trees, and the crunching of grass. Groove to kid-friendly tunes on your iPod and discuss what they mean.

Give Your Full Attention

You may think that you’re able to listen to your child while watching the news or texting your BFF. But what your child sees is that Mom is only half listening. And if you’re not paying attention, why should he? “My research shows that children as young as preschool age notice when adults aren’t fully engaged in their conversations,” says Mary Renck Jalongo, Ph.D., author of Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn. Of course, not everything your child has to say is a showstopper. Still, try to focus on one form of communication at a time. That means you can fix dinner while chatting, but you shouldn’t watch TV, Google, or text while your first-grader tries to tell you about his day. Give him your undivided attention: Make eye contact, acknowledge what he’s saying, and ask questions. Says Dr. Jalongo: “Kids feel appreciated and valued when you take the time to really listen, plus they learn to reciprocate.”

5 Empowering Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen

By Vicki Glembocki

Having a hard time getting your children to follow directions? Me too. So my friends and I decided to try our own group therapy. Don’t laugh — it work

A few months ago I crashed headfirst into my most frustrating parenting problem to date: My daughters were ignoring me. I could tell them five times to do anything — get dressed, turn off the TV, brush their teeth — and they either didn’t hear me or didn’t listen. So I’d tell them five more times, louder and louder. It seemed the only way I could inspire Blair, 6, and Drew, 4, to action was if I yelled like one of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and then threatened to throw their blankies away.

This was not the kind of parent I wanted to be. But their inability to obey or even acknowledge my husband, Thad, and me made us feel powerless. While walking through Target one Saturday, I heard no fewer than five parents say some variation of, “If you don’t start listening, we’re walking out of this store right now!”

I recognized that at least part of the problem was me. After much lamenting about my lame parenting skills, I got lucky: A friend’s mom mentioned what she calls “the Bible” on the subject: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When I checked it out at fabermazlish.com, I saw that there’s an accompanying DIY workshop for $130 (both were updated last year in honor of the book’s 30th anniversary). Granted, the authors are moms, not child psychologists or toddler whisperers. But the book was a national best-seller, and parents continue to host workshops using the authors’ ideas.

To see if their advice still held up, I wrangled four equally desperate mom buddies and ordered the workshop. I got two CDs and a guide with directions for leading the group. We met every Tuesday night in my living room for seven weeks, spending much of our 90-minute sessions talking about our struggles with listening-challenged kids as if we were in a 12-step program. We followed along as actors played out scenarios on the CD, did some role-playing of our own, and completed weekly homework assignments, such as reading parts of How to Talk and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, by the same authors, and then applying our new communication skills. Not all of Faber and Mazlish’s advice rang true for us. Their suggestion to post a to-do list on the fridge so we wouldn’t have to keep reminding our kids of their responsibilities, for instance, didn’t pan out (especially because I had to keep reminding my girls to look at the note!). But other tips truly got our kids to start paying attention — and, better yet, got us to stop screaming at them. Carrie, the mom of a 6-year-old, summed up our collective reaction by the end: “This really works!”

Say it With a Single Word

The situation My daughters have only one assigned chore: to carry their plates to the sink when they’re done eating. Still, not a night went by when I didn’t need to tell them to do it, sometimes three times. Even that didn’t guarantee they would — and who would finally clear them? Take a guess.

The old way After they ignored my repeated commands, I’d sit Blair and Drew down and preach for ten minutes about how I wasn’t their servant and this wasn’t a restaurant.

The better way Kids usually know what they’re supposed to do; they just need some simple reminding. “They’ll tune you out when you go on and on,” Faber told me. “Instead, try just one word to jog their memory.”

The result After dinner one night, all I said was “plates.” At first the girls looked at me as if I were speaking in an alien tongue. But a second later, they picked them up and headed for the kitchen. After roughly a month of reinforcement, I don’t need to say anything; they do it automatically. “Teeth!” works equally well for getting them to brush, as does “Shoes” to replace my typical morning mantra: “Find your shoes and put them on; find your shoes and put them on”. And when I hear Blair screaming, “Give me that!” I simply say, “Nice words” (okay, that’s two words). I practically faint when she says, “Drew, would you please give that to me?”

Empower Your Kid

Provide Information

talking to child

The situation My friend Michele had just served lunch when, as was her habit, 2-year-old Everly jumped off her chair, climbed back on, turned around, stood up, and then stomped on the cushion.

The old way When Everly wouldn’t respond to a patient “You need to sit still,” Michele would get annoyed and say something like, “How hard is it to understand? You must sit down!” Everly would cry but still not sit. In the end, she’d get a time-out, which didn’t change her behavior.

The better way State the facts instead of always issuing commands. “Who doesn’t rebel against constant orders?” asks Faber. (I know I do.) Kids aren’t robots programmed to do our bidding. They need to exercise their free will, which is why they often do exactly the opposite of what we ask them to. The trick is to turn your directive into a teaching moment. So instead of, “Put that milk away,” you might simply say: “Milk spoils when it’s left out.” This approach says to a child, “I know that when you have all the information, you’ll do the right thing,'” Faber explains.

The result The next time Everly played jungle gym at mealtime, Michele took a calming breath and then said, “Honey, chairs are meant for sitting.” ?Everly smiled at her mother, sat down, and then started eating. “That never happened before,” Michele reports. She still has to remind her daughter now and then, but in the end, Everly listens. The technique applies to other situations as well. Rather than saying, “Stop touching everything,” Michele now points out, “Those delicate things can break very easily.” Ditto for “Legos belong in the green bin so you can find them the next time you want to play with them” and “Unflushed toilets get stinky.”

Give Your Child a Choice

The situation Three days after our final session, Joan took her kids to Orlando. At the Magic Kingdom, she handed them hats to shield the sun. Her 6-year-old put hers on willingly. Her almost-5-year-old, Sam, refused.

The old way “I’d try to persuade him to cooperate,” Joan says. Inevitably, she’d end up shouting, “If you don’t put it on, you can’t go on any more rides.” Then he’d bawl his eyes out, and no one would have any fun.

The better way Offer your child choices. “Threats and punishment don’t work,” Faber explains on one of the workshop CDs. “Rather than feeling sorry for not cooperating, a child tends to become even more stubborn. But when you make him part of the decision, he’s far more likely to do what’s acceptable to you.”

The result Joan left it up to her son: “Sam, you can put your hat on now or after you sit out the next ride.” Sam still wouldn’t comply. “But after he missed out on Peter Pan’s Flight, I said, ‘Sam, here’s your hat,’ and he put it right on,” Joan says.

State Your Expectations

The situation Amy let her kids turn on the TV before they left for school. After one show was over, she’d take Adrian, 4, to get dressed while Angela, 7, kept watching. But when it was Angela’s turn to get ready, she’d whine, “Just ten more minutes. Please? Pleeeeeeeaaase!”

The old way Amy would yell: “No, you’ve watched enough. That’s it.” Angela would complain some more. Amy would yell, “I said no!” Then, after more begging, she’d add, “You’ve already had more TV time than Adrian. You’re being ungrateful.”

The better way Let your kids know your plan ahead of time. Amy should tell Angela something like this: “After you’ve brushed your teeth and are totally dressed and ready to go, you can watch a little more TV while I get your brother dressed. That way you’ll be on time for school.”

The result The first time Amy tried this tactic, Angela turned off the TV without saying a word. But the second morning, she refused and started bellyaching again. Amy quickly realized she hadn’t reminded Angela of the plan in advance this time. So the following morning she stated it again clearly: “When I leave with Adrian, I expect you to turn off the TV.” Success. She finds the strategy equally effective for other situations (“No starting new games until the one you’ve just played is put away”).

Name Their Feelings

The situation Carrie’s daughter Tatum, 6, was happily blowing bubbles with a friend. Suddenly, Tatum stormed into the room, wailing, “Mina’s not giving me a turn.”

The old way “I’d say something like, “There’s no reason to cry over this,” Carrie says. What would Tatum do? The opposite — cry more and likely ruin the rest of the playdate.

The better way Parents need to listen too. “Everyone wants to know they’ve been heard and understood,” Faber argues. Telling a child to stop crying sends the message that her feelings don’t matter. Kids often cry (or whine, yell, or stomp) because they can’t communicate why they’re upset or don’t know how to deal with the emotion. “You need to give them the words to express it,” Faber says.

The result Next time, Carrie looked Tatum in the eye and described what she thought her daughter was feeling: “You seem really frustrated!” Tatum stared at her in surprise and then announced, “I am.” Carrie held her tongue to keep from giving advice (“You need to ?”), defending her friend (“Mina deserves a turn too”), or getting philosophical (“That’s life”). Instead, she said, “Oh.” Tatum kept talking: “I wish I had two bottles of bubbles.” Carrie asked, “How can we work this out so it’s fair to you and Mina?” Tatum said by taking turns. Carrie suggested they use a kitchen timer, and Tatum explained the plan to Mina. Everyone wound up happy. “It’s hard to stop yourself from saying too much,” says Carrie. She’s right. Phrases like, “You never listen to me” and “How many times do I have to tell you?” become ingrained in our brain. During the workshop, my friends and I realize that it’s going to take a bit of practice to stop uttering these expressions. But that’s the entire point: to change the way we talk to our kids, so they not only understand what we’re trying to say but actually want to listen.

Palm harbor Schools 7 Discipline Mistakes All Moms Make

By Katy Rank Lev from

When it comes to dealing with bad behavior, everyone screws up. We’ll help you do it right.

p_101750498.jpgI haven’t been to the post office since “the incident.” I was that wild-eyed woman with a screaming child, slowly working my way up the line as one customer after another let me go ahead. Turns out my desperate attempts to comfort my kid were the result of a rookie error. The tantrum came from an oversight I made earlier that day: failing to notice the signals (eye-rubbing and crankiness) that he was tired. No wonder he had a meltdown.

I’m hardly alone in missing my child’s cues, says Parents advisor Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. According to her, there are patterns to behavior. Kids do the same things when they’re tired, hungry, or getting fed up; it’s up to adults to take note and adjust accordingly. My son’s moodiness should have told me to let him nap, then run errands when he was ready.

Ignoring a kid’s signs is one of many discipline mistakes parents make all the time, but fixing them can make a huge difference in the parenting experience. We asked the experts to reveal the most common missteps.

We’re Too Negative

“Don’t hit your sister!” “Stop pulling the dog’s tail!” The number of things you tell your toddler or preschooler not to do is endless.

THE FIX Ask for the behavior you want to see. Nobody wants to raise a child who doesn’t understand limits, but “parents say ‘no’ so frequently that kids become deaf to it — and the word loses its power,” Dr. Borba explains. Moreover, “we often tell kids not to do something without letting them know what they should be doing,” notes Linda Sonna, Ph.D., author of The Everything Toddler Book. So save the naysaying for truly dangerous situations (think: fork in the electrical socket or your child eating the spider plant), and focus on telling kids how you would like them to behave. For example, instead of, “No standing in the bathtub!” try, “We sit down in the bathtub because it’s slippery.” Later, when you notice your kid splashing away in a seated position, offer some praise (“I like how you’re sitting!”) to reinforce her good behavior.

We Expect Too Much From Our Kids

You’re sitting in church when your toddler shouts. As soon as you shush him, he does it again. Mortifying! Why doesn’t he listen?

THE FIX Play teacher. Very young children still haven’t developed impulse control or learned the social graces required in public places like stores and restaurants. “Parents assume kids know more than they do,” Dr. Sonna says.

When your child breaks a norm, remind yourself that he isn’t trying to be a pain — he just doesn’t know how to act in the situation, so snapping isn’t effective (or fair). Focus on showing your child how you want him to behave, softly saying things like, “I’m being quiet because I’m in church, but if I need something from Dad I lean in close to whisper.” Also point out what others are doing (“Look how Charlie is coloring while he waits for his meal to arrive”). Kids are born mimics, so modeling or drawing attention to something we want them to do goes a long way.

“It takes time and repetition for kids to learn to handle themselves,” Dr. Sonna says, which means you should expect to give your kid a lot of reminders — and remove him when he doesn’t get the message. Over time, he’ll learn how to act.

We Model Behavior We Don’t Want to See

When you drop something, you yell. A man cuts you off and you call him a rude name. But then you get mad if your kid reacts the same way when things don’t go her way.

THE FIX Apologize and take a do-over. There’s a boomerang effect to behavior: If we yell, our kids probably will too, says Devra Renner, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. Yes, it’s hard to be on perfect behavior around the clock, so apologize when you do slip up. “Emotions are powerful and difficult to control, even for grown-ups,” Renner notes, but saying “sorry” demonstrates that we’re accountable for our actions nonetheless.

It also creates the chance to talk about why you reacted the way you did and offers appropriate ways to respond when you’re feeling frustrated. That’s what Deena Blumenfeld, of Pittsburgh, did when her son Owen, 5, protested so much about getting dressed that she snapped, “Just shut up and get dressed!” Realizing this was not how she’d want her son to react in a similar situation, she knelt down, apologized, then talked about how important it is to be on time for school. It worked: Owen got ready for school calmly after that.

We Intervene When Our Kids Simply Annoy Us

p_101750500.jpgYou hear your children chasing each other around the house and immediately shout.

THE FIX Ignore selectively. Often, parents feel the need to step in every time kids do something, well, kid-like. But always being the bad guy is exhausting, Dr. Borba notes. Keep in mind that children sometimes do things that are irksome because they’re exploring new skills. (So your toddler could be dumping juice into his cereal because he’s learning about liquids.) Other times, they’re seeking attention. When it comes to reacting, Dr. Borba’s rule of thumb is: When safety isn’t an issue, try watchful waiting. If your 6-year-old is playing his recorder with his nose, try not to shout. See what happens if you just continue with what you’re doing as if nothing is happening. Most likely, if you don’t respond, he will eventually stop — and you’ll feel calmer, having avoided a shouting match.

We’re All Talk and No Action

“Turn off the TV… I’m serious this time… Really!” Your kids continue bad behavior when warnings are vague for the same reason you run yellow lights — there aren’t consequences.

THE FIX Set limits and follow through. Nagging, second chances, and negotiation all convey that cooperation is optional, says Robert MacKenzie, Ph.D., author of Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child. To teach kids to follow rules, make expectations clear, then take action when they’re broken. If you want your kid to, say, get off the couch and do homework, start with respectful directives (“Please turn off the TV now and do your work”). If she follows through, thank her. If not, give a consequence: “I’m turning off the TV now. Until your work is finished, your TV privileges are suspended.”

We Use Time-Out Ineffectively

When you send your 3-year-old to his room after he hits his brother, he starts banging his head on the floor in rage.

THE FIX Consider a time-in. A time-out is meant to be a chance for a child to calm down, not a punishment. Some kids respond well to the suggestion that they go to a quiet room until they’re chill. But others view it as a rejection, and it riles them up. Plus, it doesn’t teach kids how you want them to behave. As an alternative, Dr. Sonna suggests taking a “time-in,” where you sit quietly with your kid. If he’s very upset, hold him to get him settled down, Dr. Sonna adds. Once he’s relaxed, calmly explain why the behavior wasn’t okay. Too angry to comfort him? Put yourself in time-out; once you’ve relaxed, discuss what you would like your child to do differently. You might start by saying: “What can you do instead of hitting when Milo grabs your train?”

We Assume What Works for One Kid Will Work for the Other

The best way to deal with your son’s whining is to get down at eye level and explain how his actions need to change. But your daughter is more aggressive and refuses to listen.

THE FIX Develop a diverse toolbox. It’s easy to blame your kid when a discipline technique fails. But “you may have to go about getting the behavior you want in different ways with each kid,” notes Avivia Pflock, coauthor of Mommy Guilt. While one might respond to a verbal reminder about what is acceptable, the other might need a consequence when she acts up — like having her Wii unplugged. Being firm with one child and touchy-feely with another isn’t being inconsistent; it’s tuning in to different needs and learning styles, Pflock assures. “The punishment should fit the crime — and the kid.”

7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders

7-Crippling-Parenting-Behaviors-That-Keep-Children-From-Growing-Into-LeadersWhile I spend my professional time now as a career success coach, writer, and leadership trainer, I was a marriage and family therapist in my past, and worked for several years with couples, families, and children. Through that experience, I witnessed a very wide array of both functional and dysfunctional parenting behaviors. As a parent myself, I’ve learned that all the wisdom and love in the world doesn’t necessarily protect you from parenting in ways that hold your children back from thriving, gaining independence and becoming the leaders they have the potential to be.

I was intrigued, then, to catch up with leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore and learn more about how we as parents are failing our children today — coddling and crippling them — and keeping them from becoming leaders they are destined to be. Tim is a best-selling author of more than 25 books, includingGeneration iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the Habitudes® series. He is Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to mentoring today’s young people to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Tim had this to share about the 7 damaging parenting behaviors that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives and of the world’s enterprises:

1. We don’t let our children experience risk

We live in a world that warns us of danger at every turn. The “safety first” preoccupation enforces our fear of losing our kids, so we do everything we can to protect them. It’s our job after all, but we have insulated them from healthy risk-taking behavior and it’s had an adverse effect. Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, they frequently have phobias as adults. Kids need to fall a few times to learn it’s normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. If parents remove risk from children’s lives, we will likely experience high arrogance and low self-esteem in our growing leaders.

2. We rescue too quickly

Today’s generation of young people has not developed some of the life skills kids did 30 years ago because adults swoop in and take care of problems for them. When we rescue too quickly and over-indulge our children with “assistance,” we remove the need for them to navigate hardships and solve problems on their own. It’s parenting for the short-term and it sorely misses the point of leadership—to equip our young people to do it without help. Sooner or later, kids get used to someone rescuing them: “If I fail or fall short, an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct.” When in reality, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works, and therefore it disables our kids from becoming competent adults.

3. We rave too easily

The self-esteem movement has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. Attend a little league baseball game and you’ll see that everyone is a winner. This “everyone gets a trophy” mentality might make our kids feel special, but research is now indicating this method has unintended
consequences. Kids eventually observe that Mom and Dad are the only ones who think they’re awesome when no one else is saying it. They begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents; it feels good in the moment, but it’s not connected to reality. When we rave too easily and disregard poor behavior, children eventually learn to cheat, exaggerate and lie and to avoid difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it.

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well

Your child does not have to love you every minute. Your kids will get over the disappointment, but they won’t get over the effects of being spoiled. So tell them “no” or “not now,” and let them fight for what they really value and need. As parents, we tend to give them what they want when rewarding our children, especially with multiple kids. When one does well in something, we feel it’s unfair to praise and reward that one and not the other. This is unrealistic and misses an opportunity to enforce the point to our kids that success is dependent upon our own actions and good deeds. Be careful not to teach them a good grade is rewarded by a trip to the mall. If your relationship is based on material rewards, kids will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional
love.

5. We don’t share our past mistakes

Healthy teens are going to want to spread their wings and they’ll need to try things on their own. We as adults must let them, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them navigate these waters. Share with them the relevant mistakes you made when you were their age in a way that helps them learn to make good choices. (Avoid negative “lessons learned” having to do with smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc.) Also, kids must prepare to encounter slip-ups and face the consequences of their decisions. Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because we’re not the only influence on our kids, we must be the best influence.

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity

Intelligence is often used as a measurement of a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume an intelligent child is ready for the world. That’s not the case. Some professional athletes and Hollywood starlets, for example, possess unimaginable talent, but still get caught in a public scandal. Just because giftedness is present in one aspect of a child’s life, don’t assume it pervades all areas. There is no magic “age of responsibility” or a proven guide as to when a child should be given specific freedoms, but a good rule of thumb is to observe other children the same age as yours. If you notice that they are doing more themselves than your child does, you may be delaying your child’s independence.

7. We don’t practice what we preach

As parents, it is our responsibility to model the life we want our children to live. To help them lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their words and actions. As the leaders of our homes, we can start by only speaking honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character. Watch yourself in the little ethical choices that others might notice, because your kids will notice too. If you don’t cut corners, for example, they will know it’s not acceptable for them to either. Show your kids what it means to give selflessly and joyfully by volunteering for a service project or with a community group. Leave people and places better than you found them, and your kids will take note and do the same.

Why do parents engage in these behaviors (what are they afraid of if they don’t)? Do these behaviors come from fear or from poor understanding of what strong parenting (with good boundaries) is?

Tim shares:
“I think both fear and lack of understanding play a role here, but it leads with the fact that each generation of parents is usually compensating for something the previous generation did. The primary adults in kids’ lives today have focused on now rather thanlater. It’s about their happiness today not their readiness tomorrow. I suspect it’s a reaction. Many parents today had Moms and Dads who were all about getting ready for tomorrow: saving money, not spending it, and getting ready for retirement. In response, many of us bought into the message: embrace the moment. You deserve it. Enjoy today. And we did. For many, it resulted in credit card debt and the inability to delay gratification. This may be the crux of our challenge. The truth is, parents who are able to focus on tomorrow, not just today, produce better results.” How can parents move away from these negative behaviors (without having to hire a family therapist to help)?

Tim says: “It’s important for parents to become exceedingly self-aware of their words and actions when interacting with their children, or with others when their children are nearby. Care enough to train them, not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle.”

Here’s a start:

1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.

9 Parenting Steps That Foster Growth, Confidence And Leadership In Kids

Part of the new series “Parenting for Success”

9-Parenting-Steps-That-Foster-Growth-Confidence-Leadership-In-KidsIn January, I published a parenting post featuring Dr. Tim Elmore’s great insights on the 7 crippling parenting behaviors that keep children from growing into leaders. With more than 5.7 million views and growing, we know this piece struck a powerful chord among parents across the globe. Both Tim and I received hundreds of comments, emails, and questions from parents of all walks of life, asking how to apply these ideas into practice. Some parents disagreed, and also challenged our concept of “leadership” and asked, “Can’t we just let our children be who they are rather than make them into leaders?” (Great question.)

From my perspective, the goal is not to “force” our children to be anything they’re not, but instead, to foster, encourage and support them to be all they dream to be in the world. To do that, we need to understand some fundamentals about parenting behaviors that encourage growth, confidence and self-reliance, versus actions that stifle independence and critical thinking.

Offering the flip-slide of our previous piece on what NOT to do, Dr. Elmore has shared 9 parenting steps that will foster growth, confidence and leadership in teenage children:

Tim suggests parents help their children:

1. Find mentors and ask for help.

Take your teens with you to meet colleagues and help them find mentors. As my kids grew up, I included them on trips to meet with colleagues who I knew they’d benefit from meeting. At first, my children didn’t know how to respond, but eventually they learned to bring a pad to take notes. From these times, they found mentors they could contact and ask questions they may never feel comfortable asking mom or dad. It matured them and helped them think like leaders, and helped them obtain guidance and support outside of their parents.

2. Develop a “growth” mindset.

Praise them for effort, concentration, action and strategies. Research shows that effective leaders possess a “growth mindset” not a “fixed mindset.” Instead of praising kids for their smarts or looks, affirm variables that are in their control, like hard work, or good strategy or honest words. This cultivates a healthy attitude that is open to taking calculated risks. It also prevents them from quitting or being afraid to fail or struggle.
While talent and intelligence are wonderful to possess, attitude is actually more important (and more impactful) than aptitude.

3. Identify their gifts and translate them into service.

This step is paramount. Something great happens when our kids find a gift inside them that they can then turn it into something that adds value to others. And if they can monetize it, even better. Help them to do just that. A friend of mine said his three teens were lazy until last summer when he had them create a flyer listing jobs they could perform (and would enjoy doing) for neighbors. It worked. They were energized all summer and made some money too. They’ve been transformed. They are more entrepreneurial now than ever. This fostered work ethic and ingenuity.

4. Expand their critical thinking.

Have them find challenging news topics that interest them, and determine how to respond. Research shows that schools and homes have failed to cultivate critical thinking skills in students. In my training with teens, I have kids watch the news or read a book that was full of conflict. As they recognized the dilemmas, I asked them to choose one challenge, then imagine what they’d do if they were in charge of solving it. We would discuss their strategy and learn from it. This exercise gives them vision, and teaches them that leaders earn their influence by solving problems and serving people.

5. Actively engage in social gatherings.

This generation of kids (teens) spends more time with each other than with adults. They also spend more time on screens, diminishing face-to-face conversations. I believe we must equip kids to be “hosts” not just “guests” in life. Hold a party or social gathering for some of your friends (without their children) and ask your kids to help be hosts for the evening. Encourage them to learn to answer the door, take the coats, introduce guests to
each other, and serve them. This builds people and communication skills. At first, my children rolled their eyes at this idea, but later became very comfortable interacting with adults. They’re now both gainfully employed. When they’re old enough, have them host their own social gatherings as well, and assist in planning events at their school and other outside organizations, to further their planning, communication, and interpersonal relationship skills.

6. Learn about the realities of money.

Invite them to help you pay the bills and choose where money goes. If kids aren’t exposed to the realities of life – such as how we keep the lights on in the house or having to choose between a new tablet or food for the remainder of the month – how are they going to learn them? I have a friend who is a mom to two teenage sons and she had them sit down with her at the computer to pay bills on-line. They quickly saw how much money it took to run a household—and as a result, they lighten up on asking for new phones. At times they had more days in the month left than money to pay everything off, so her boys helped choose what bills to pay now and which to pay later. This was a great reality check on finances, delayed gratification, and decision-making.

7. Embrace challenge, and don’t shy away from failure.

Genuine leadership qualities surface when kids are challenged to do something hard, and when they don’t shy away from possible failure. In our work with over 7,000 schools, I encourage kids to engage with underserved cultures and communities, to teach them to serve, support and problem-solve. In fact, ourHabitudes books, we use images to spark conversations and equip kids to learn to see life this way. With my own kids, we have visited impoverished neighborhoods nearby and developing nations too. This exposure is healthy and learning to serve is priceless. We make it an adventure. Children thrive at the opportunity to do things they feel important and meaningful, but
are also challenging and difficult to address, where there are no easy answers.

8. Develop their worldview.

Many children are reading content online, and watching YouTube videos throughout the day. They are formulating their own opinions and views on all that they digest. This is rich food for thought that can be encouraged and built upon. Take your children to the movies, watch videos and read articles with them. Talk about the stories you see, and you’ll inevitably become engaged in conversation that helps them evaluate and analyze what took place and why. Help them build their critical thinking skills, and encourage the formulation of their own views. As young adults, they will automatically begin to think more deeply about life around them, and gain awareness of their own philosophy of what’s happening in film, media, and in the news, which helps them think deeply,
interpret experiences, and develop their own positive worldview.

9. Learn that life is about adding value.

Our culture naturally conditions us to be consumers, not always contributors. Help your children support a cause that is important to them. Few projects cultivate leadership and ambition like choosing a worthwhile cause outside their small sphere of influence, and finding a way to support it or raise money for it. This requires courage, planning, decision-making and people skills. Eventually, the fund raiser must do the “ask.” When kids do this, they develop all kinds of positive qualities, not the least of which is emotional intelligence. They learn to manage emotions—both theirs and those other people – and they learn to accept rejection and move on. While IQ is important, EQ is an even more important life skill.

To become the best, most successful parents we can be, we need to gain awareness of our actions and behaviors, which in turn generates greater choice in how we want to shape our children’s growth and future. You are your children’s first and most important role models – everything you say and do impacts their self-concept and their view of the world. Take the time today to explore your actions and revise them to ensure you are supporting your children to think and live as fully as possible, and are on the way to reaching their highest potential.

6 Ways to Make Consequences More Effective

Address Behavior Problems Effectively and Efficiently
By Amy Morin | Discipline Expert | Updated December 15, 2014.

6-Ways-to-Make-Consequences-More-Effective

Angela Sorrentino/Vetta/Getty Images

It’s quite often that parents enter into my therapy office to tell me that “consequences just don’t work” with their child. Whether they’re using time out or taking away privileges, they feel like their child is immune to consequences because the behaviors aren’t changing.

Consequences are an important part of discipline, however. They can work with even the toughest kids when they are used appropriately and it can be a great way to help kids change their behavior. There are some strategies parents can use to make consequences more effective.

1. Be Consistent with Your Consequences
Positive and negative consequences will only work if they are given consistently. If you only take away your child’s video games only two out of every three times that he hits his brother, he’ll quickly learn he’s got a good chance of getting away with hitting and he’ll be willing to risk it. If however, you are consistent in giving him a consequence each and every time, his behavior will change.

Sticking to consequences is also part of consistency. If you tell your child he can’t go out and play for the rest of the day, but by afternoon, you change your mind and let him go outside anyway, he won’t learn. It’s essential that you stick to it no matter how much he whines, begs or promises to change his behavior.

2. Keep Building a Healthy Relationship
A healthy relationship with your child is a necessary foundation for discipline. If your child loves and respects you, consequences will be much more effective. Giving your child positive attention and spending quality time together helps develop a positive relationship. This is also true if you are disciplining a step-child, grandchild or any other child.

3. Make Consequences Time Sensitive
Any consequence should be time sensitive. Saying, “You’re grounded until I say so,” just isn’t a good motivator. Neither is saying, “You can’t go anywhere until I can trust you again.” Instead, it’s important to outline how long the consequence is in effect.

Usually 24 hours is a good amount of time to take something away from a child. However, there may be times that take away a privilege until your child earns it back. If this is the case, outline exactly what needs to happen for your child to earn it back. Instead of saying, “You can’t have your cell phone back until I can trust you,” say, “You can begin earning the right to use your phone for one hour a night if you get all your homework done and tell the truth for the next two weeks.”

4. Give Consequences Immediately
The best consequences are immediate. Taking away your child’s overnight with Grandma that is planned for next week is not likely to be as effective as taking away his electronics right now. Immediate consequences ensure kids remember why they received the consequence in the first place. If it’s delayed by a week, they’re more likely to forget.

There may be times, however, that it’s not possible to give immediate consequences. If you find out your child got into trouble on the bus three days ago, the consequence will obviously need to be delayed. Or, if he misbehaves right before he gets on the bus in the morning, you may need to wait until he gets home from school before you can give him a consequence.

5. Use Consequences as a Teaching Tool
There’s a difference between consequences and punishment. Consequences should be used as a teaching tool and shouldn’t shame or embarrass kids. Logical consequences are a great way to ensure that the consequence fits with the misbehavior.

Natural consequences can be a great teaching tool when they are used deliberately. Using a natural consequence doesn’t mean your child is allowed to get away with misbehavior. Instead, it should be used as an opportunity for him to learn from his mistakes.

6. Give Consequences Sparingly
Consequences should be used sparingly. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t take away a privilege when it is deserved, but consequences become less effective when they are used too much. Kids who lose all of their privileges for an extended period of time begin to lose motivation to earn it back. Time out also becomes less effective when it is used many times a day for weeks at a time. Consequences can be used in conjunction with other discipline tools, such as reward systems, praise and active ignoring to help kids manage their behaviors.

4 Ways Helicopter Parents Can Harm Their Kids’ Chances At Success

By Rachel Grumman Bender | This story originally appeared on LearnVest.

4-Ways-Helicopter-Parents-Can-Harm-Their-KidsFrom the moment you hold that tiny baby, there’s an overriding instinct to protect your child at all costs from the bad things that can happen in life.

Sometimes, however, that determination to keep little Sam and Susie constantly content can backfire.

The very things you’re doing to ease the way for your child as they’re growing up—albeit with the best of intentions—could be crippling their ability to find financial and career success in the future.

“The basic parenting instinct is to do a little hovering,” says Dr. Richard Rende, Brown University development psychologist and coauthor of “Raising Can-Do Kids.” “But it has spun out of control in [today’s] helicopter parents.”

In fact, studies have shown that kids of helicopter parents are more likely to feel less competent, be less independent, and report lower levels of both self-worth and life satisfaction.

It can also hurt them financially: Research has shown that low self-esteem negatively influences children’s future earnings.

From micromanaging their movements to solving every problem for them, we’ve pinpointed four common over parenting sins that have the potential to hamper your
child’s financial and career success.

Sin #1: Swooping in to Fix Everything

If you habitually come to the rescue for every little thing, you’re not helping teach your child a vital life skill—self-efficacy.

“Self-efficacy is the belief that ‘I can solve my problems and handle whatever life throws at me,’ ” says Chris Segrin, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist and head of the department of communications at the University of Arizona. ”We gain self-efficacy largely by trial and error experiences, so when people always have someone there to take care of problems for them, they never fully develop that skill.”

The ability to effectively problem-solve is important in all aspects of life, but it particularly comes into play at work, where you need to be able to quickly assess a situation and navigate toward a solution.

But if a person is unable to solve workplace problems independently, they can often be pigeonholed as the employee who doesn’t show initiative or ownership of projects
assigned to them—and that can impact their earning potential.

Sin #2: Making All of the Decisions for Them

Parents may think they’re helping their kids by handling the majority of day-to-day decision-making. After all, it’s only natural to think, “Why shouldn’t my kids benefit from my wisdom?”

But allowing children to be responsible, and make more of their own choices, enables them to practice skills that will come in handy in the boardroom—like exercising
decisiveness and taking initiative.

By deciding everything, “you’re depriving your kid of their ability to develop their intrinsic ‘What’s driving me? What am I passionate about?’ motivation, which helps
develop personality,” Rende says. ”Children need to learn how to make their own decisions and test them out—it’s through that testing that you’re going to figure out
what works for you and makes you happy.”

Sound decision-making skills can be particularly handy when it comes to money management.

To be financially secure, you obviously need to make good financial decisions. But you also need to be able to understand what really brings you the most joy, so you can spend—and save—your money wisely.

If a child hasn’t learned from early trial and error while he’s still in a safe environment, he’ll be more likely to make serious money mistakes as an adult.

“When your kids have enough money to buy something and make a dumb mistake, you have to let them do it—and suffer or enjoy the consequences of their decision,”
says Mary Hunt, author of “Raising Financially Confident Kids.”

And once they’re older and have shown themselves to be responsible, Hunt recommends giving them a budget and letting them make their own decisions about purchasing
books or back-to-school clothes.

But allowing children to be responsible, and make more of their own choices, enables them to practice skills that will come in handy in the boardroom—like exercising
decisiveness and taking initiative.

By deciding everything, “you’re depriving your kid of their ability to develop their intrinsic ‘What’s driving me? What am I passionate about?’ motivation, which helps
develop personality,” Rende says. ”Children need to learn how to make their own decisions and test them out—it’s through that testing that you’re going to figure out
what works for you and makes you happy.”

“It promotes maturity and responsibility to figure out your own decisions and plan ahead,” Hunt says.

Sin #3: Micromanaging Down to the Hour

Most children feel more secure having a basic routine in place, but helicopter parents can go overboard, packing every waking hour with a plethora of activities—from piano and Mandarin lessons to soccer practice and swim classes.

A 2014 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that the more children participated in structured activities, the poorer their self-directed executive functioning was.

Translation: They had a harder time setting and reaching goals independently—a skill set that can impact future financial and career success.

On the flip side, the research found that kids who spent more time in less structured activities—such as reading books or playing outdoors—were more skilled at setting and reaching their own goals, without having to rely on adults to nudge them along.

In the long run, being able to effectively set and stick to goals can play a big part in both financial and career success.

So how do you strike the right balance?

According to Rende, it all comes down to fun and games—specifically, letting kids take the reins at structuring their own playtime, while you respectfully play the part of hands-off observer.

Bottom line: Micromanaging your child’s every movement can diminish enthusiasm and confidence, says Rende, and take away what motivates them to achieve excellence—
namely, the joy of discovery and the satisfaction of finding their own meaningful solutions.

Sin #4: Shielding Them From Making Mistakes

No parent wants to see their child fail, but despite how hard it may be to let them knowingly make a mistake, it’s important to let them do so from time to time.

“It’s not just about failure but about learning,” Rende says. “Critical-thinking skills and problem-solving abilities—that’s what successful people know. But if we’re depriving kids of those experiences, they aren’t developing those skills.”

Experiencing failure also teaches resilience, which can help kids overcome adversity in adulthood—such as being laid off and having to find another job.

By taking a step back as parents, while still providing empathy and support, you’re allowing your children to step up, learn valuable lessons, and develop the skills they’ll need to successfully navigate life.

And that’s the gift that keeps on giving.

9 Tips To Get Kids To Listen

ListenDemanding, nagging and yelling will not get your kids to listen. In fact, if your child seems to listen “only when you yell,” chances are that they are obeying out of fear, rather than an internal drive to listen and follow directions.

If you want your kids to listen without yelling or nagging, you need to start with how you communicate your requests to them.

Instead of trying to force your child to listen, focus on yourself first. Change the way you make your requests, and then watch as your child changes their behavior.

USE THESE NINE TIPS TO GET STARTED:
1. Connect: Kids who feel a strong connection to their parents have a stronger desire to respond to their requests. If your child isn’t listening, focus on building the relationship first: play together, read, snuggle, laugh.
2. Limit your commands: Pay attention to how many corrections, requests or redirections you give your child during the day. Chances are, they have tuned you out! Focus on the big things so your child knows what’s important.
3. Whisper: If you have a loud voice or tend to yell your requests, change things up by using a softer tone. Your kids may be caught off guard and focus better. For young kids, whispering a request can be a fun game.
4. Eye contact: Instead of yelling a request from across the room, walk over and be present with your child. Make sure you have their attention before you give the request. Politely interrupt their activity, asking for eye contact, if necessary.
5. Repeat Back: Once you’ve given the request, ask your child to paraphrase what you just said. Even better, ask your child what is expected instead of telling them. For example, ask, “What else do you need to do before you get on the bus?”
6. Be respectful: Nothing shuts down communication like negativity, blaming and finger-pointing. Instead of, “This is the third time I’ve asked you to take out the trash; you’re so lazy!” try, “The trash needs to be out by 5 pm, please. Thanks for your help!”
7. Make it short: Encourage compliance by making your requests simple. “Shoes!” or “Plates in the sink, please.” Most children have difficulty processing a long list of requests. Focus on one or two at a time.
8. Give warnings: No one likes to be interrupted or surprised by a request. Give your child time to obey by giving advanced notice, when possible. Use a timer or something concrete (“at the next commercial”) for small kids.
9. Solve the bigger problem: There may be an underlying reason that your child is not listening. Observe your child and notice when they seem to struggle and when they follow through well.

Common underlying problems and some suggestions are:
1. Process information slowly — speak slowly with long breaks for thinking.
2. Struggle with transitions — give warnings and allow for time between activities.
3. Difficulty processing too many things at once — give one command at a time.
4. Visual learner rather than auditory — use charts, lists, timers and pictures.
5. Unsure what you expect — explain or demonstrate the behavior you’d like to see.
6. Unable to complete the task — teach the skill and practice in advance.

Your child can learn to listen! But, it starts with you. Observe yourself over the next few days. What patterns and habits have you fallen into related to how you talk with your kids? This week, find one thing you’d like to change and pick something from this list to try instead.

(Note: Many parents tell me that they wonder about their child’s hearing. If you’re concerned,
please talk to your doctor. In the meantime, try this test: while your child is in the room, whisper
something about their most desirable activity and see if they respond, for example: “Who want’s to
go get ice cream!” Most of the time, their hearing is suddenly just fine!)

The Benefits of Dramatic Play in Early Childhood Education

Dramatic PlayAn increasing amount of research continues to support play in early childhood development, and there are five primary forms or types of play in which children engage: locomotive, social, object, language and pretend play. Each type of play has its own benefits for the developing mind of a
young child, and while each is important, pretend play (otherwise known as imaginative or dramatic play) is becoming an increasingly popular component in toddler and preschool education.

Dramatic play is defined by experts as a type of play where children assign and accept roles and act them out. For example, child who pretends to feed and rock a doll to sleep is engaging in dramatic play, or a child who pretends to fix a leaky faucet in the play kitchen is engaging in dramatic play.

This is a time for a child to pretend to be someone or something else, and while pretending may just look like “playing”, it is integral to the developmental learning process. There are four primary areas under which children learn and develop through pretend play. They
include:

  • Intellectual – increase in skills such as problem solving, negotiating, creativity, organizing and planning, retelling familiar stories, application of newly gained knowledge, and mathematics
  • Physical – increase in skills such as gross and fin motor development, fitness, strength, and
    coordination
  • Social – development of skills such as sharing, taking turns, cooperation, negotiation, impulse
    control, delay gratification, and deal with disappointment
  • Emotional – increase in self esteem, pride and accomplishment, feeling of safety and protection,
    development of sense of self and individuality, and feelings or purpose

Experts agree that dramatic play is an integral part of a well rounded preschool program as it is
healthy for early childhood development. Through dramatic play, children learn a myriad of skills.
In fact, the Association of Childhood Education International has stated that play is a natural part of
childhood development that cannot be replaced by adult interaction. This means that even adult
instruction cannot replace the valuable experience children gain through play, specifically dramatic
play. So, let the children pretend!
For further reading:
The Vital Role of Play in Early Childhood Education by Joan Almon
The Benefits of Dramatic Play by Ellana S. Yallow, Ph. D.
What is Dramatic Play and How Does it Support Literacy Development in Preschool? by Scholastic.com

When Your Kid Is the Bully: What to Do

Here’s what to do if your kid turns out to be the bully at school.

by Suzanne Peck

It usually starts with a phone call from the school: Your child’s in trouble for bullying. “Ninety-nine percent of parents will say, ‘No way, not my kid’ and get defensive,” says Jennifer Cannon, a family therapist in Newport Beach, California. “But every kid is capable of bullying, even the kid you think is an angel.” So why do kids bully? Ronald Mah, a family therapist in San Leandro, California and author of Getting Beyond Bullying and Exclusion PreK-5, describes two distinct reasons why kids bully. “One reason is when popular and powerful children use bullying to maintain their power and popularity. The other reason is when children who experience a sense of deprivation feel entitled to bully other kids; that is, ‘I’ve been dealt a bad hand, so the rules don’t apply to me.’ or ‘I’ve been picked on, so I’ll get to them before they get to me.'” Kids also observe examples of bullying behavior every day through media, politics, TV reality shows, other kids at school, and even family dynamics. They may not understand that such behaviors are not acceptable anywhere.

Just take a deep breath, gather details about what exactly transpired, and let the school know that you want to work together for a positive outcome. At the same time, make sure that your child is treated fairly regarding school discipline. For example, new federal data shows that students of color and students with disabilities are disciplined much more frequently and more harshly, with suspensions as early as preschool. Assess your child’s actions without rushing to judgment and focus on understanding the behavior that’s involved before deciding on the appropriate consequences. The good news is that kids can unlearn bullying behaviors, and you can help them change their ways.

What to Do If Your Child Is Bullying Others

Acknowledge the Behavior

Sit down with your child, speak in a calm, firm tone, and ask him what happened and why he behaved a certain way. Be a good listener and avoid blame. Kids need to understand that it’s okay to admit they made a mistake. Ask questions to help him understand how his behavior affects others:

“Is what you did respectful? Did it hurt someone? Would you want someone to do that to you?” Emphasize fair treatment of all people by saying, “We don’t behave that way in this family because we respect other people, and we don’t want other people to treat us that way,” suggests Walter Roberts, a professor of counselor education at Minnesota State University, Mankato and author of Working With Parents of Bullies and Victims.

Focus on Consequences

Help your child understand that she is accountable for her actions. “Outline and follow through with consequences for bullying behavior. Write them out, review them once a week, and enforce them,” Cannon advises. Depending on the circumstances, you can eliminate something your child cherishes so the consequence will be significant, such taking away your child’s cell phone, eliminating or reducing TV or video game time, or preventing participation in a social outing. Or, better yet, turn the bullying incident into a teachable moment by discussing positive ways your child can handle future situations that lead to good consequences. Have your child write a paragraph describing what it would feel like to be in the other child’s shoes or write an apology letter.

Be Proactive About Working With the School

“School personnel works best when they see that parents sincerely want to improve the situation. Don’t feel you’ll be judged as a bad parent. It’s hard raising kids, and it’s not a failure to ask for help,” Roberts says. So don’t be afraid to work with the school to help your child learn behaviors that are constructive. Start with your child’s teacher and then meet with the principal, counselor, school resource officer, or district staff to come up with a plan to help your child stop bullying. Ask if counseling or other community resources are available to help your child. Stay in close touch with the school to see if your child’s behavior improves.

Build Social and Emotional Skills

Empower your child to build her skills for resolving conflicts and handling tough situations. Social and emotional learning includes self-awareness, self-management, resilience, social agility, and responsible decision-making. Look for after-school programs and extracurricular activities that can provide new settings to develop ways to build positive relationships. Improving these skills now, while your child is in elementary school, will be a lifelong gift.

Suzanne Peck is filmmaker and author of STAND TALL: Lessons That Teach Respect and Prevent Bullying, www.corwin.com/standtall. She has decades of experience as a teacher, trainer, and mom.

The 4 Common Types of Bullying

Identify which kind of bullying your child may be experiencing.

by Suzanne Peck

Bullying is defined as mean, hurtful behavior that occurs repeatedly in a relationship with an imbalance of power or strength. It takes many forms — verbal, physical, relational, and cyberbullying. Although schools are doing more to deal with bullying, parents are still the key to empowering kids to prevent and stop it. Here are tips on how to deal with the four common types of bullying.

Verbal Bullying

What It Is: Verbal bullying, or bullying with cruel spoken words, involves ongoing name-calling, threatening, and making disrespectful comments about someone’s attributes (appearance, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, etc.).

Example: When a child says to another child, “You’re really, really fat, and so is your mom.”

How to Spot the Signs: Children may withdraw, become moody, or show a change in appetite. They may tell you something hurtful that someone said about them and ask you if you think it’s true.

What to Do: First, teach your kids about respect. Through your own behavior, reinforce how everyone deserves to be treated well — thank teachers, praise friends, be kind to store employees. Stress self-respect, and help your kids to appreciate their strengths. “The best protection parents can offer is to foster their child’s confidence and independence and to be willing to take action when needed,” says Shane Jimerson, Ph.D., a school psychologist and professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Discuss and practice safe, constructive ways your child can respond to a bully. Brainstorm key phrases to say in a firm but not antagonistic tone, such as “That wasn’t nice,” “Leave me alone,” or “Back off.”

Physical Bullying

What It Is: Physical bullying, or bullying with aggressive physical intimidation, involves repeated hitting, kicking, tripping, blocking, pushing, and touching in unwanted and inappropriate ways.

Example: A child gets his pants pulled down on the playground at lunchtime.

How to Spot the Signs: Many children don’t tell their parents when it happens, so watch for possible warning signs like unexplained cuts, scratches or bruises, missing or damaged clothes, or frequent complaints of headaches and stomachaches.

What to Do: If you suspect your child is being physically bullied, start a casual conversation — ask what’s going on at school, during lunch or recess, or on the way home. Based on the responses, ask if anyone’s been mean to her. Try to keep your emotions in check. Emphasize the value of open, ongoing communication with you and with teachers or school counselors. Document the dates and times of bullying incidents, the responses from people involved, and the actions that have been taken. Do not contact the parents of the bully (or bullies) to resolve matters on your own. If your child continues to be physically hurt, and you need additional assistance beyond the school, contact local law enforcement. There are local, state, and federal anti-bullying and harassment laws that require prompt corrective action.

Relational Bullying

What It Is: Relational bullying, or bullying with exclusionary tactics, involves deliberately preventing someone from joining or being part of a group, whether it’s at a lunch table, game, sport, or social activity.

Example: A group of girls in dance class keeps talking about a weekend sleepover and sharing pictures, treating the one uninvited child as if she were invisible.

How to Spot the Signs: Watch for mood changes, withdrawal from peer groups, and a shift toward being alone more than usual. Girls are more likely than boys to experience social exclusion, nonverbal, or emotional intimidation. The pain can be as strong as physical bullying and last even longer.

What to Do: Make it a nightly routine to talk with your kids about how their day went, advises Jennifer Cannon, a family therapist in Newport Beach, California. Help them find things that make them happy, point out their positive qualities, and make sure they know there are people who love and care about them. Focus on developing their talents and interests in music, arts, athletics, reading, and after-school activities so your kids build relationships outside of school.

Cyberbullying

What It Is: Cyberbullying, or bullying in cyberspace, involves haranguing someone by spreading mean words, lies, and false rumors through e-mails, text messages, and social media posts. Sexist, racist, and homophobic messages create a hostile atmosphere, even when not directly targeting your child.

Example: When someone tweets or posts, “Kayden is a total loser. Why is anyone hanging out withhim? He’s so gay.”

How to Spot the Signs: Watch to see if your child spends more time online (visiting social media pages or texting) but appears to be sad and anxious afterward. Even though she’s reading painful things on her computer, tablet, or phone, this may be her only social outlet. Also take note if she has trouble sleeping, begs to stay home from school, or withdraws from activities she once loved.

What to Do: Mean messages can be distributed anonymously and quickly, leading to 24/7 cyberbullying, so first establish household rules for Internet safety. Agree on age-appropriate time limits. Know the popular and potentially abusive sites, apps, and digital devices before your kids use them. Let your kids know you will be monitoring their online activities. Tell them that if they experience cyberbullying, they shouldn’t engage, respond, or forward it. Instead, they should inform you so you can print out the offending messages, including the dates and times of when they were received. Report cyberbullying to the school and to the online service provider. If the cyberbullying escalates to include threats and sexually explicit messages, also contact local law enforcement.

If your child does approach you about being bullied or about someone else being bullied, be supportive, praise her courage for telling you, and gather information (without getting angry or accusatory). Emphasize the difference between being a tattletale who is just trying to get someone in trouble and talking to an adult who can help. Always take action with bullying, especially if it becomes severe or persistent, by contacting your child’s teacher or principal first to monitor the situation until it stops. Visit stopbullying.gov for more information.

Suzanne Peck is filmmaker and author of STAND TALL: Lessons That Teach Respect and Prevent

Bullying, www.corwin.com/standtall. She has decades of experience as a teacher, trainer, and mom.

Preparing Your Child For Testing

Helpful information about learning brought to you by Reading Rockets, Colorín Colorado, and LD OnLine

Types of tests

Testing is used in schools for two main purposes. One is to find out how well an individual student is learning in the classroom. For instance, teachers can test how well a child is responding to reading instruction by using assessments that measure specific skills necessary for fluent reading.

The other purpose is to find out how well the school is meeting local and national benchmarks for student achievement. For this purpose schools use standardized tests, usually administered in the spring.

How to help

Take a deep breath. Step away from the flashcards. As a parent, the most important way you can help your child do well on tests is to read with your child regularly, talk with her about her experiences, and provide a quiet work space at home.

When well-meaning parents focus too much on test results, they put undue pressure on young children. For kids who struggle with attention or memorization tasks, testing can be extremely stressful because it requires students to draw entirely on these skills.

To help prepare for routine classroom assessments:

  • Provide a variety of books, children’s magazines, and enriching experiences to spark your child’s curiosity and build vocabulary
  • Make sure your child gets time and space for homework
  • Make sure your child gets enough rest and a well-balanced diet
  • Consult with your child’s teacher to find out if there are specific skills you can practice at home

To help prepare for standardized tests:

  • Ask the teacher for the testing schedule and a practice test so that you can familiarize your child with the format ahead of time so he knows what to expect
  • Respond to any concerns your child has with encouragement and support. Emphasize that there are lots of ways to express what you know, and that these tests are just one measure

Interpreting test scores

Ask the teacher to share the results of standardized testing to see if your child’s performance on the test is consistent with his or her performance in the classroom. Meet with the teacher about any concerns you have.

If you are interested, you can also ask how the school compares to other schools in the district, state, and across the country.

For more information about testing, visit:

www.ReadingRockets.org/article/c68

4 Ways to Make Reading Fun

By taking a playful, pressure-free approach, you’ll help your child enjoy books on his own in practically no time.

By Leslie Gariso Pfaff from Parents Magazine

Since Anita Lavine’s daughter, Faye, had been an early and avid reader, the Seattle mom figured her 5-year-old son, Owen, would follow suit. The early part happened, but not the avid. “He wasn’t interested in the books that were at his reading level,” says Lavine. So she brainstormed creative ways to help him practice his new skills, like reading the back of his favorite cereal box, learning the names of familiar birds in a Pacific Northwest nature guide, and flipping through family cookbooks for cool recipes.

“Kindergarten and first grade lay the foundation for how kids feel about books throughout their education,” says Annemarie B. Jay, Ph.D., director of graduate and doctoral reading programs at Widener University, in Chester, Pennsylvania. “It’s important not only for them to learn to read — but for them to like doing it.” How can you make letters, sounds, and words seem as fun as playing a board game or building with Legos? Dr. Jay and other experts offer easy, engaging ideas that are tied to crucial literacy skills. Read all about them!

Sound Off

Early readers are still absorbing the notion that letters are symbols that stand for sounds. A good way to reinforce the idea is to start with the most familiar word of all: your child’s name. “Challenge him to find things around the house that start with the same first letter as his name,” suggests Dr. Jay. To familiarize him with ending sounds, read poems, nursery rhymes, and rhyming books (like Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham) together. For overall sound recognition, Rachel Payne, coordinator of early-childhood services at the Brooklyn Public Library, recommends the game “Beginning, Middle, or End”: Hide a raisin in one of three cups, and ask your child where a letter falls in a particular word, such as the m in camel. The goal is to look in the right cup — in this case, the middle one — and then to eat the raisin inside.

Follow the Plot

If your child doesn’t comprehend what a story is about, she’s likely to regard reading as a chore. By engaging her in the book when the two of you have storytime together, you can help her follow the plot and find the meaning. Before Sarah Lendt, of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, starts reading the text with her son, Isaac, 6, she tells him to look at the illustrations and asks him questions to get him excited about what’s coming: “What do you think the story is going to be about?” “What do you think the character will do?” Questions like these help kids predict the story while illustrations often give them clues to words they’re having trouble sounding out, says Kathy Barclay, Ed.D., a literary specialist at Western Illinois University, in Macomb. Still finding that your kid can’t follow the plot — or doesn’t give it his full attention? Dr. Barclay suggests reading nonfiction books that reflect your son’s passions, like fire trucks, dinosaurs, or pirates.

Have a Word

Building a broad vocabulary is essential to reading comprehension now and later in school. One way to expand your child’s vocabulary is to read aloud to him, choosing books that are a couple of grade levels above his. “He’ll be acquiring a knowledge bank of rich words, and when he eventually comes across them on his own, they won’t be 100 percent new,” says Dr. Barclay. Find books that are likely to offer unique words. “There’s great vocabulary in poetry, classic fairy tales, and nonfiction,” notes Payne. “Stop occasionally if you come across a particularly unusual word, but don’t talk about individual words so much that you interrupt the flow of the story,” says Jill Allor, Ph.D., chair of teaching and learning at the Simmons School at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. Instead, go back to them after you’ve finished reading the book.

Speak Up

To truly enjoy reading, it needs to become second nature. “Children should read both silently and aloud,” says Judy Cheatham, Ph.D., vice president of literacy services at the nonprofit group Reading Is Fundamental. That’s where a child’s fluency — the ability to read smoothly and expressively — comes in, says Dr. Cheatham. Since kids gain fluency by practicing familiar text, don’t worry if your child chooses the same book over and over again. If your kid is anxious about reading aloud to you, let him read to himself or into a recording device and then play it back for himself or a younger sibling. Or encourage him to entertain an even more forgiving listener. A study from the University of California, Davis showed that second-graders who read aloud to the family dog improved reading skills by 12 percent over ten weeks. Another surprising help: audio books, which reinforce the flow of words. Natalie Wahl, of Las Vegas, started buying them a few years ago for her son Benjamin, now 8. Says Wahl, “After just a couple of months of listening to the books, I noticed a big improvement in Ben’s ability to read aloud.”

Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

Board Games That Increase Brain Power

Experts say board games can boost a slew of skills that help kids do better in school. And playing them as a family just ups the benefits—and the fun factor.

By Linda Rodgers

Games are great for kids for different reasons at different ages. For preschoolers, they’re a fun way to learn how to “follow rules, focus, take turns, and defer gratification, which helps with self-regulation, the basis of problem-solving and thinking creatively,” explains Peter J. Pizzolongo, the senior director of professional development at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Board games also get bonus points for bringing families together (especially if family dinners are a rare occurrence) and for luring grade-schoolers away from the Wii. And all kids get lessons in decision- making (“Should I buy Boardwalk or save my money?”), consequences (“Ooops—no more cash!”), and strategic thinking (“If I swap two railroads for Boardwalk, I can start buying houses”).

So should you set up regular times to play or let your child set the agenda?

“Both,” says Pizzolongo. “Let your child come to you, but setting aside a special evening or afternoon gives her a ritual—and predictability and routines are important for kids.” For ideas on what to play, read on for the games that get the highest marks from experts.

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Uno

This card game for two or more players can be aged up (the original, with words, numbers, and colors) or down (with Thomas the Tank Engine or Disney Princess characters), says Shannon Eis, a play and development expert and mom of two. It’s good for preschoolers to about age 8 or 9.

How you play it: Shuffle the deck of 108 cards and deal seven to each player. Put the rest of the cards in a pile, and turn one over. The card that’s face up is the start of the discard pile; the larger one is the pile you draw cards from. Each person must put down a card that’s either the same number or color as the card on the discard pile. There are also wild cards and cards that cause a person to skip her turn, draw more cards, and so on. The first player with no cards wins.

What it teaches kids: Paying attention is a crucial skill in school—and that’s just what preschoolers pick up when they focus on the cards and remember to play the same color (or character). Besides reinforcing numbers and colors, Uno also sharpens pattern recognition: your child won’t take algebra until eighth grade, but patterns will help her understand the relationship between objects and numbers, which is the basis of algebra. Older kids get lessons in logic, reasoning, and strategy by deciding which cards to throw down now and which to save for the next turn.

Uno, $5.78, from amazon.com

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Bingo

This is another game that can be tailored to preschoolers who don’t yet know their letters or numbers, says Eis. You can buy versions that are just shapes, colors, or everyday objects (Zingo), or you can just cut out photos of things that fascinate your little one (cars, say, or animals) from catalogs. Kindergarteners on up can play the classic version with letters and numbers.

How to play: Each player gets a pile of tokens and a card divided into a 25-square grid with 24 numbers and a blank space in the middle and a row on top that spell out “BINGO.” The caller picks out numbers from a basket, and calls it out: “B-5,” for example, or “I-26.” The first player to fill up a row with tokens—either diagonally, horizontally, or vertically—shouts “Bingo!” and wins the game.

What it teaches kids: No matter which version you’re playing, your cutie’s listening and memory skills will get a workout. Another benefit: she’ll practice her ability to visualize shapes and objects (and later, letters and numbers) and then match them on her card, both of which are necessary for learning to read and do math.

Bingo, $5.32, from amazon.com

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Where is Sock Monkey?

A cross between Twenty Questions and Clue, this game gives wiggly preschoolers and young grade- schoolers a lesson in deductive reasoning and a chance to race around the house, says Sherry Artemenko, a speech therapist and creator of playonwords.com, an award-winning speech therapy site.

How to play it: One player hides the six-inch sock monkey (which comes with the game) while the other players close their eyes. When the hider returns, the players take turns drawing illustrated cards with yes or no questions—“Is the monkey in a room with a fridge?” “Is it in the living room?”—designed to uncover the monkey’s whereabouts. When a player draws the “Go look” card, she must race to a room to find the monkey before the timer goes off.

What it teaches kids: Your preschooler or kindergartner won’t be able to read the questions, but she can figure them out from the illustration—a decoding strategy that will come in handy when she learns to read. The game also gives her practice in asking questions, listening for the answers, following directions, and putting clues together—all crucial skills for the classroom.

Where Is Sock Monkey?, $16.99, from amazon.com

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Dominoes

Dominoes is another grade-school game that can be scaled down to the preschool level by buying tiles in colors, Disney characters, or animals, instead of the classic tiles marked with dots (like dice) from 0 to 6, says Eis, who’s also a contributor to Time to Play.

How to play it: Put the 28 tiles face down on a table and shuffle them. Each player draw seven tiles, and the rest are left in what’s known as the “boneyard.” The person with the highest double tile goes first, placing the domino on the table. The next player must match one of the halves with a tile containing the same number or character. If a player can’t make a match, she has to draw a tile from the boneyard. The player who gets rid of all the dominoes wins. Older kids can play for points—the first one to reach 50 or 100 wins the game.

What it teaches kids: Besides being a good way to get kids to recognize numbers or objects quickly, dominoes is also good at honing a kid’s ability to spot patterns, since that’s what you need to make a match. The game also sharpens critical thinking and strategy, since older kids must decide how to maximize the number of points.

Dominoes,$13.60, from amazon.com

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Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It

This 6-foot-long board game gets kudos from Artemenko and scores of Amazon users, who’ve made this preschool-friendly game based on cooperation (and the brilliant Busytown books by Richard Scarry) a bestseller.

How to play it: The object of the game is to get all the players onboard the ferry to Picnic Island to eat their lunch before the pigs gobble up the food. In order to do that, each player takes a turn at the spinner, and follows the directions—move four spaces, for instance, or lose a piece of food. When the spinner points to Goldbug, someone flips over the sand timer, and all the players band together to hunt for as many items of the object (shovels, say) listed on the Goldbug card before the sand runs out. Players get bonus moves depending on the number objects they’ve found on the board.

What it teaches kids: Teamwork pays off, and that’s a great lesson for a preschooler or kindergartner who’s learning how to work with classmates. The game also reinforces your child’s ability to recognize objects and match them on the board, hones her powers of observation, and gives her practice in associating categories with people and actions—for example, learning you’ll find shovels and hammers at a construction site.

Richard Scarry’s Busytown Game, $19.99, from amazon.com

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I Spy Ready to Read

Based on the I Spy books, this board game is actually five games in one, and is geared to kids ages 4 to 6. You may have to help your pre-reader with the riddles at first, says Eis.

How to play: Each player gets a card that has punch-out tokens on one side and four riddles on the other. In the simplest version of the game, players take turns reading from a riddle, finding the object, and punching out the token. After all the tokens are punched out, you can play the game in reverse: Read the riddle, find the object, and put it back in the card. Other versions of the game include a memory game, where kids look for pairs of objects that rhyme.

What it teaches kids: This is another matching game that helps kids practice their visual skills and letter recognition. But even better, this game is based on rhymes, which help your child become more aware of language structure by hearing the syllables in each word and sentence.

I Spy Ready to Read, $15.68, from amazon.com

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Connect Four/Connect 4 Launchers

Connect Four and Connect 4 Launchers (an updated version of the classic) provide the right type of challenge for your grade-schooler, who’s developmentally ready to become a better strategist, Eis explains. Yes, she’s still a sore loser (especially when she plays with you), but she’s also learning what she’ll need to do to win the game next time around.

How to play it: Connect Four is like a combo of tic-tac-toe and checkers for two players. Each player picks a color, gets their pile of 21 checkers, and then takes turn sliding a checker into a plastic grid. The player who gets four in a row—either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally—wins. Connect 4 Launchers lets players launch their checkers onto a two-tiered platform, adding a new element of challenge: Now your child has to send her checker flying in such a way that it hits the right spot on the grid.

What it teaches kids: To win the game, your child has to plan out her moves, so both versions sharpen her abilities to think critically and logically. Plus, she not only has to focus on what she’s doing, but on what her opponent is too—a skill known as divided attention.

Connect Four, $20.19, fromamazon.com; Connect 4 Launchers, $26.18, from amazon.com

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Bananagrams

If your child is too young or too impatient for Scrabble, get her started on this take-and-play-anywhere word game that’s great for kids 5 and up.

How to play it: Dump out the 144 letter-tiles face down on the table. Each player takes at least 21 tiles (fewer if you have more than four players) and, after someone yells “Split!”, starts to create her own crossword puzzle, racing to finish before the others. When you run out of tiles, yell, “Peel!” and everyone must pick a tile from the bunch in the middle. The player who uses up all the tiles wins— provided there are no more left in the bunch to pick from.

What it teaches kids: Like Scrabble, this fast-paced game is a reading, writing, spelling, and vocabulary booster.

Bananagrams, $14.95, from amazon.com

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Animal Mastermind Towers

Making and breaking codes appeal to your grade-schooler’s more advanced thinking skills, says Eis. Animal Mastermind Towers is a little-kid-friendlier version of the classic for children 5 to 7.

How to play it: In Animal Mastermind Towers, each player gets four animal tiles and a tower. Players stack the tiles so their opponent can’t see; then each takes turns asking yes or no questions (“Is the penguin above the hippo?”) to guess the order of the tiles. The object is to break your opponent’s code in the fewest number of turns. Older kids will love the classic Mastermind, which involves pegs of different colors.

What it teaches kids: Because your child must remember her opponent’s answers, Animal Mastermind Towers helps boost memory as well as deductive skills (“If the penguin isn’t below the hippo but above the giraffe, maybe the order is giraffe, penguin, hippo, lion!”). Making up a code teaches strategy, a useful skill for helping your child decide how to tackle any situation, in the classroom or on the playground.

Animal Mastermind Towers, $11.11, from amazon.com

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Angry Birds Knock on Wood

The smartphone version has been downloaded 350 million times, and if your 5- to 8-year-old is a fan, you might want to lure her offline for this hands-on, cooperative version.

How you play it: Like the app, the object of the game is to catapult birds at a structure and knock it down. Players work together to build the structures according to the directions on the mission cards; then each player takes a turn launching the birds with a slingshot.

What it teaches kids: Building the structures requires teamwork, which is great for kids learning to work together in small groups. Copying the structure from the cards means your child get practice following directions, recognizing patterns, and perfecting her fine-motor skills.

Angry Birds Knock on Wood, $33.50, from amazon.com

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Monopoly

By the time your child is in third grade, she’s mastered the basics, so what she needs now are games that teach her patience, persistence, and flexibility, says Eis.

How to play it: Players scoot along the board, buying up property, building houses, and amassing as much play-money cash as possible. The object is to become the richest player by bankrupting your opponents. Along the way are chance cards that can change a player’s luck. Monopoly Junior is a scaled-back version for kids 5 to 8, with amusement park rides and ticket booths instead of properties and houses.

What it teaches kids: Besides giving kids practice in making change, Monopoly is a fun way to teach such grown-up concepts as saving, budgeting, and financial planning. Plus the random element (“Go directly to jail!”) teaches your child how to adapt to sudden changes.

Monopoly, $17.77, from amazon.com

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Rory’s Story Cubes

Sometimes it’s good to play open-ended games that don’t involve winning. This game has the added benefit of getting your child ready to write more complex stories, says Artemenko. It’s recommended for kids 8 and up, but younger ones can play too.

How to play it: The game comes with nine six-sided cubes, all of which have a sketch—aliens, eyes, keys, chat balloons, wands, flashlights, and more—on each side. Roll the cubes and make up a story based on the sketches that appear face up.

What it teaches kids: The sketches are abstract enough that your child can interpret them any way she wants, which is great for spurring her imagination. She’ll also learn to create stories with beginning, middles, and endings, turn something abstract into something more concrete, and how to spin an entertaining story.

Rory’s Story Cubes, $6.86, from amazon.com

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Battleship

This game, unlike any other, helps a child visualize a grid as she figures out how to sink her opponent’s ships, explains Eis. You can even play the game with pencil, paper, and graph paper. A two-person game, it’s best for kids 8 and older.

How to play it: Each player gets a board with two grids—one for keeping track of her opponent and the other for hiding ships—five ships of different lengths, and two different colored pegs. Players take turns firing of their shots: You call out a number and letter on the grid. Your opponent must say if you’ve scored a hit or missed; you mark each miss with a white peg and each hit with a red one. The player who sinks all her opponent’s ships first, wins.

What it teaches kids: It takes a certain amount of cunning to hide all five ships in such a way that make them difficult to find, so logic, planning, and reasoning all come into play here, as do deductive powers, problem-solving, and memory.

Battleship, $29.99, from amazon.com

palm-harbor-school-scrabble

Scrabble

Teachers and child education experts love Scrabble, which is why you’ll find it in every classroom, especially once your child hits third and fourth grades.

How to play it: Place all 100 letter-tiles in a bag, and let each player get seven tiles, which are arranged on a tile board. Players take turns creating words on the board; one letter of each new word must connect to a previous word. Since each letter is worth a certain amount of points, the object is to create words with the highest point value. The player with the most points wins.

What it teaches kids: Not only does Scrabble help your child with reading, vocabulary, and spelling, but it teaches math (she has to keep adding up her points), problem-solving and strategy (she has to plot how to get the biggest bang from a word), and is great for boosting her attention span and long- term memory, which help her test-taking and study skills.

Scrabble, $12.26, from amazon.com

Experts say board games can boost a slew of skills that help kids do better in school. And playing them as a family factor.

parenting

Quirky Discipline Rules That Work

Tired of nagging and scolding? Try these 7 surprising solutions

By Barbara Rowley

I’ve made a lot of bad rules in the decade I’ve been a mom, from irrational threats (“No graham crackers in the house ever again if you eat them in the living room even one more time”) to forbidding human nature (“You may not fight with your sister”). But occasionally I’ve come up with rules that work better than I’d ever contemplated. These made-up rules have an internal logic that defies easy categorization, but their clarity and enforceability make them work. Several of them are not, technically, rules at all, but declarations of policy or fact. And they’re all easy to remember. A few personal favorites, plus those of other moms:

Rule #1: You can’t be in the room when I’m working unless you work, too

Goal: Get your child to help, or stop bugging you, while you do chores

It might seem odd, but I don’t mind doing laundry, cleaning floors, or really any kind of housework. But I do mind my kids, oblivious to the fact that my arms are full of their underwear, asking me to find their missing doll shoe or do a puzzle with them. Until recently, this was a source of great frustration, especially when our household grew to five kids when my husband, Taylor, and I became temporary foster parents for two months.

I tried to explain to my expanded brood that if they helped me fold laundry, we could do something together sooner. But they knew I’d be available anyway if I finished folding myself, so the argument wasn’t compelling.

And then one day, as my oldest foster daughter sat and watched me work, asking me favors and waiting for me to be done, I came up with a rule that takes into account two important facts about kids:

* They actually want to be with you as much as possible.

* You can’t force them to help you in any way that is truly helpful.

I played fact one against fact two and told her that she didn’t have to help me but couldn’t just sit and watch. She had to go elsewhere. Given a choice between being with me and folding laundry or not being with me at all, she took option one.

Why it works: I didn’t care which she chose. And it was her choice, so it gave her control even as it took it away.

No more late nights

Rule #2: I don’t work past 8 p.m.

Goal: Regular bedtimes and time off for you

You can’t just announce a rule to your husband and kids that says, “Bedtime has to go really smoothly so I can get a break at the end of the day.” It won’t happen. But if you flip the problem and make a rule about you instead of telling everyone what they have to do, it all falls neatly  — and miraculously  — into place.

When this occurred to me, back when my oldest was 6 and my youngest was nearly 2, I announced to Anna and Taylor that the U.S. Department of Labor had just created a new rule and I was no longer allowed to do any kind of mom jobs past 8:00 in the evening. I would gladly read books, play games, listen to stories of everyone’s day, give baths — the whole mother package — before then. Then I held firm — I acted as if it were out of my hands. Sort of like Cinderella and midnight.

Suddenly, my 6-year-old (and my husband) developed a new consciousness of time. My daughter actually rushed to get ready for bed just after dinner so that we could have lots of books and time together before I was “off.” My husband, realizing that if things dragged past 8:00 he’d have to face putting both girls to sleep himself, became more helpful. Anna’s now 11, and my hours have been extended, but the idea that I’m not endlessly available has been preserved and integrated into our family routine.
 

Rule #3: You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit

Goal: No more haggling — over which pretzel has more salt or who gets their milk in the prized red cup and who in the cursed green, or which cast member of Blue’s Clues adorns whose paper plate.

My friend Joyce, director of our town’s preschool, told us about this terrific rule, now repeated by everyone I know on playgrounds and at home. Not only does it have a boppy rhythm that makes it fun to say, but it does good old “Life isn’t fair” one better by spelling out both the essential truth of life’s arbitrary inequities and the only acceptable response to the world’s unfairness: You don’t throw a fit.

When I first heard this, I was skeptical. It seemed too simple. But to my utter surprise, not only did it do the trick but kids seemed to rally around it almost with relief. They must have seen that if it applied to them today it might apply to someone else tomorrow.

Why it works: It’s irrefutable — it almost has the ring of runic or prehistoric truth to it — and rather than focusing on an abstract notion like “fairness,” it speaks directly to the situation at hand.

Rule #4: Take that show on the road

Goal: Peace and quiet

Is it just me or does someone saying “one-strawberry, two-strawberry, three-strawberry” over and over in a squeaky voice make you want to smash some strawberries into a pulpy mess? I want my kids to be gleefully noisy when they need and want to be. But I don’t feel it’s necessary that I be their audience/victim past a few minutes or so, or that I should have to talk (shout?) over their, um, joyous clamor when I’m on the phone. So once I’ve shown attention adequate to their display, I tell them that they’re free to sing, bang, chant, or caterwaul to their hearts’ content, just not here. The same goes for whining, tantrums, and generic pouting.

For the irrational and long-winded whining jags sometimes used by her 4-year-old son, my friend Denise has turned this rule to a pithy declaration: “I’m ready to listen when you’re ready to talk.” She then leaves the room.

Why it works: It gives children a choice rather than a prohibition and does so without rejecting them.

No money, no problems

 

Rule #5: We don’t argue about money

Goal: Short-circuit begging and pleading for stuff

This rule has to be enforced consistently to work, but the basic deal is that you can tell your child yes or no on any requested purchase, but you don’t discuss it. If your child protests, s mply repeat, calmly, like a mantra, that you won’t argue about money. The key to success is that you have to have the courage of your convictions and not argue. Thus the calm repetition.

It cuts both ways, though: When your kids want to spend their “own” money, point out potential mistakes and give advice on the purchase if you’d like, but at the end of the day, don’t overrule them unless it’s a matter of health or safety. After all, you don’t argue about money. They may make some bad choices, but they’ll learn. And you’ll all enjoy shopping together a lot more.

Why it works: It shifts the focus from the whined-for treat to financial policy. You’re almost changing the topic on them, no longer debating why they should or shouldn’t have gum or some plastic plaything and, instead, invoking a reasonable-sounding family value.

 

Rule #6: I can’t understand you when you speak like that

Goal: Stopping whining, screaming, general rudeness

This one requires almost religious consistency of application to work effectively. But, essentially, you simply proclaim incomprehension when your child orders (rather than asks) you to do something, whines, or otherwise speaks to you in a way you don’t like. Whispering this helps; it takes the whole thing down a notch on the carrying-on scale. This is a de-escalation tool, so calmly repeat the rule a few times and don’t get lured into raising your voice. A child who’s whining or being rude is clearly seeking attention and drama, so use this as a way to provide neither.

Why it works: It empowers your child by suggesting he has something valuable to say (if he says it nicely) and allows you to completely invalidate (i.e., ignore) the rude presentation.

Rule #7: There’s no such thing as boredom

Goal: Prevent your child from saying “I’m bored”; teach her to entertain herself

A friend of mine says this is one of the few things he got right with his kids. The first time his older daughter claimed she was bored he simply denied that the thing existed. Now he sometimes adds: “There’s no such thing as boredom, only failure of the imagination” or “…only mental laziness.” Surprisingly he’s never gotten the “There is too boredom!” argument, only an exasperated “Da-ad.” Regardless of the phrasing, the result is the same: The burden of amusement lands directly on your child, which is precisely where you want it.

Why it works: By the time your kids have figured out the puzzle of how something that exists can also not exist, they won’t be bored. Also, it changes the terms of debate, from a challenge for you (list all my toys, then cave in and let me watch TV) to one for them. Besides  — if your child learns how to entertain herself, there truly is no such thing as boredom. And that’s a gift that will last all her life.

No More Whining!

By Julie Tilsner

No-More-WhiningWhen it comes to torture, we could all learn a thing or two from kids. Who knows better than they how to extract most anything they want within minutes of applying the technique? I’m talking about whining, of course — that grating mewling that causes us to do anything (anything!) just to make it go away. But you can break the habit. And the rewards of victory can be rich for both of you.

Toddlers

Why they do it: Early talkers whine like babies cry. Some experts say that whining tends to peak in a child’s development when she’s feeling out of control and overwhelmed — emotions that pretty much sum up toddlerhood. She lacks the vocabulary to articulate her frustrations, and that whimpering is the natural default noise.

Certain triggers, such as hunger and fatigue, can also cause breakdowns (true for kids of all ages), so keep that in mind the next time you take your toddler grocery shopping close to naptime.

How to stop it: Patience becomes the first rule when confronted with these early bouts of whining. When her son, Matthew, who’s almost 3, melts down because he can’t wait ten more minutes for dinner, Rae Sullivan of Durham, North Carolina, gives him a little extra attention, like five minutes of lap or snuggle time. Those five minutes are well spent if it means she can finish cooking without another whinefest. Tossing him a few crackers to eat in the meantime doesn’t hurt, either.

“A lot of toddlers don’t even know they’re whining,” says Sheila Oliveri, a mom of three and a nursery school teacher in St. Louis. So give your little complainer an exaggerated demonstration: “Whyyyyyy are you taaaalkingg like thaaaaaat?” The result will be twofold: “You’ll show her exactly how irritating whining is,” says Oliveri, “and you may make her laugh, which will make her forget why she was complaining in the first place.”

Or try recording your child. Play it back to her so she knows what she sounds like, and work with her on better ways to ask for the things she wants or needs.

Preschoolers

Why they do it: Like toddlers , the 3-to-5 set has a low threshold for frustration. Plus, they’re going through a lot of changes — such as starting school, facing a new baby sib, or graduating to a big-kid bed-that make them extra hungry for your attention, even if it’s the negative kind.

How to stop it: The great thing about preschoolers is that they can still be distracted by a clever trick. For instance, Debbie Granick of St. Louis uses a “whine” cup, or bowl or bucket or whatever’s at hand. “Whenever one of them starts, I say, ‘Here, go pour out your whine and bring me your regular voice.’ It gets a smile, or at least that ‘Oh, Mom’ look, and then they’ll usually change their tone.” She then
thanks her child for using a “pleasant” voice.

Or whisper your answer back. “You may have to whisper it several times, but your child will have to be quiet to hear you, and a lot of times he’ll mimic your tone of voice,” says Karen Shaffer, a mom of three in Highland, California.

By the time they’re 4, most kids are able to understand that their behavior has consequences. So you can start using the “I can’t understand you when you whine” technique.

“When my children complain, I say, ‘I’m sorry, but when you talk in that voice, I can’t understand anything you’re saying. Use your normal voice and I’ll try to listen to you.’ Then I ignore them until they start to comply,” says Audrey Smith, a mom of two in Long Beach, California. It works, she says, but you have to be as consistent as possible.

And that’s not easy, as we all know. Who among us hasn’t caved in? Trouble is, if your child sees you can be broken, he’ll simply up the ante, and your whining problem will be worse.

Besides being consistent, look for ways to reinforce the behavior you do want, like thanking him when he repeats his request in a polite tone.

Grade-schoolers

Why they do it: Besides whining when they’re tired or hungry, kids grumble when they’re asked to do things they don’t want to do (insert your chore of choice) or when they’re bored. Whining is learned behavior, and by the time a kid is in elementary school, she’s a pro.

How to stop it: Some moms swear by sending their child to the “whine” room as soon as she starts. Sending her away-to the corner of the living room, say, and letting her vent aloud to herself-spares you from having to listen to it and may help the offender understand what she sounds like.

Shaffer has another tactic when her school-age kids start in. “Every whine costs them a nickel, to be deposited in a special jar,” she says. “Then we give the money to the charity box at church on Sunday.”

When you’re out in public, you can head off most whining by establishing some rules before you leave. My two kids know that there’s every possibility of a small candy or sticker purchase if they make Mommy’s trip to Target as pleasant as possible. They also know that the moment they start complaining in that tone of voice, the deal’s off. Sometimes my 5-year-old slips up, but my 8-year-old has this rule down cold.

It bears keeping in mind that everyone whines — moms and dads, too. But our kids model their behavior on ours, so the next time you’re griping about soccer-practice schedule, take a minute to listen to yourself and then go put a nickel in the whine jar. Your child will be impressed.
parenting

Healthy Lunchbox Tips

lunchboxTry these easy ideas for quick brown bag nutrition.

By Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD
WebMD Feature

Lunch often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of getting kids off to school in the morning. You may prefer to give your child money for lunch rather than pack a midday meal. But it’s worth reconsidering bag lunches because they often far healthier than standard cafeteria fare.

To make sure your child actually eats the healthy lunches you provide, try this advice from Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, a Boston-based nutritionist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and the mother of three boys.

Make the Grade With Lunch

“The most nutritious lunches include foods from at least three food groups, but that doesn’t mean children must have the traditional sandwich, fruit, and milk for good health,” says Wright. As long as youngsters eat a balanced and varied meal, it’s perfectly fine to pack hummus, whole-grain crackers, and yogurt or leftovers from last night’s dinner every day, as well as sandwiches.

The key is to respect your child’s eating style and preferences. Some kids derive comfort from eating the same foods day in and day out while others balk at it. Work with your child, Wright says, and your child is less likely to drop lunch in the playground trash bin.

Get Kids Involved

Allowing children to choose and prepare their own lunch piques interest in the meal and makes it more likely kids will eat their own creations. Let your young child help make lunch the night before school for greater ease in the morning. You can help guide your children to the proper portions and healthy choices of whole grains, protein, and produce. Keep in mind, most elementary school-aged children are allowed a midmorning snack. Account for that when considering the amount of food you provide for lunch.

Make sure you have healthy fare on hand for your child to choose:

  • Whole-grain breads or crackers
  • Peanut and almond butters
  • Light canned tuna fish
  • Raw vegetables that can be cut into slices
  • Fruits
  • Encourage the kids to make sandwiches with whole-grain breads or bagels; tortillas; or colorful wraps. Try different sandwich fillings, such as tabouli mixed with feta cheese in a pita pocket, or a veggie burger.

For even greater buy-in, Wright recommends these simple steps:

  • Let your children pick out their own lunchbox.
  • Consider insulated lunch bags with room for a small freezer pack that allows you to send foods that must be kept cold, such as dip for fresh vegetables, yogurt, and orange juice.
  • Or use larger lunch bags to avoid squishing foods.
  • Have on hand small sturdy plastic containers for cut fruit, vegetables, dip, and lunch foods other than sandwiches.

Practical Lunch Tips

A sandwich made with lean meat, light tuna fish, or peanut butter and jelly; fruit or vegetables; and milk or 100% juice is a fine meal for a growing child’s lunch. You can boost nutrition and tantalize a child’s taste buds by adding shredded carrot, chopped celery, or water chestnuts to egg salad or tuna salad. Combine chopped grapes with diced chicken and mayonnaise for a tasty chicken salad. And don’t forget this popular standby: Add a sliced banana or apple to peanut butter sandwiches.

Here are some other yummy and easy lunches that use foods from at least three of the food groups:

  • Tortilla wraps with shredded cheese, chopped chicken, and cut vegetables
  • Egg salad, whole-wheat bagel, and fruit
  • Whole-grain roll with butter or margarine, 2 hard boiled eggs, and carrot sticks
  • 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, whole-wheat crackers, and fruit
  • 1-2 tablespoons of peanut butter, whole-grain crackers or bagel, and fruit or vegetables
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese or hummus, whole-grain crackers, and cherry tomatoes
  • Bean-based soup or stew in a thermos, whole-grain roll with butter or margarine, and dried fruit
  • 1-2 slices leftover thin crust cheese pizza and fruit or vegetables

Make It a Snap

“Children may have as little as 20 minutes to make it to the cafeteria, find their seats, eat, and clean up after themselves, so ease is the name of the game,” Wright says. At some schools, kids eat on the playground, distracted by playing games.

So user-friendly foods are a must for lunch, especially for younger children who easily dismiss hard-to-eat foods that take time to get ready to eat. For example, older kids may be capable of peeling oranges and eggs in a flash, but younger ones are not. Sending a thermos? Make sure your child knows how to use it. Children with braces or other orthodontic devices often do better with foods like applesauce rather than whole apples, and prefer crackers or bread to bagels and bulky rolls, which are difficult to bite.

What’s to Drink?

Milk and fortified 100% fruit juice are the best drinks for children at lunch, in that order. Up until age 9, kids need three 8-ounce glasses of milk every day, or an equivalent such as three cuts of yogurt. By their 9th birthday, they require four servings a day. Milk is one of the easiest ways for kids to meet their need for dairy foods. Encourage milk at school by providing milk money or packing containers of milk in the lunchbox. To make it a treat, offer low-fat chocolate milk. If you child refuses to drink milk at school, opt for 100% fruit juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Don’t Forget Fun

Every kid clamors for junk food, and an outright ban rarely works. So offer healthier alternatives. Pack these fun foods for a healthy treat:

  • Baked potato chips
  • Homemade toasted pita bread chips
  • Pretzels
  • Trail mix or raisins
  • Whole-grain cereal
  • Nuts or soy nuts
  • A smattering of chocolate chips
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Graham crackers
  • Fig bars

 

Recipes for… Sandwiches and Munchies

recipes-3Mozzarella and Tomato

This simple sandwich is a cinch to make and pack. Prepare it the night before and give the flavors a chance to mingle.

Tuna Salad

Our tuna salad recipe is sure to be your child’s new favorite sandwich stuffing.

Chicken and Fruit Salad

With chunk white-meat chicken and sweet fruit, this sandwich filler will be a lunchtime favorite.

Turkey-Meatball Pitas

Lean turkey and an easy-to-handle pita make this healthy sandwich fun to eat.

Ham and Cheese Pitas

Update the classic sandwich by swapping out bread for crisp pita.

Turkey-Melon Wraps

Your kids will love the sweet cantaloupe that transforms a typical turkey sandwich.

Garden Turkey Sandwich with Lemon Mayo

Liven up a traditional turkey sandwich and create a lunch your kids will love.

Falafel Sandwiches

This fun-to-eat sandwich is easily made, packed, and enjoyed.

Healthy Makeover Meatloaf

Use leftovers from this double-duty recipe to create a kid-friendly sandwich.

Baked Honey-Lime Drumsticks

With this recipe, it’s easy to make your kids feel extra-special at lunchtime.

Fish and Chips

This lightened-up version will give your kids a favorite meal with less fat.

Mini Corn Dogs

This lunchtime munchie scores extra credit for its healthy update.

Recipes for…Soups, Chips, and Dips

Chicken Noodle Soup

Send your kids off to school with a thermos of this hearty soup. Be sure to pack their favorite crackers for dunking.

Three-Bean Vegetable Chili

When your kids tire of the same old sandwich, pack this vegetarian chili.

Chicken Chili with Green Salsa

Slightly spicy, this chili is a fun departure from an ordinary lunch.

Corn and Tomato Chowder

Have your kids enjoy this mild soup with tortilla chips.

Vegetable Soup

Thanks to this tasty soup, getting your kids to eat their veggies has never been easier.

recipes-2Romano-Cheese Flatbread Crisps

These yummy crisps are the perfect companion for a tasty dip like hummus.

Parmesan Pita Crisps

Give your kids a healthy alternative to potato chips. Baked crisps have all the crunch without the fat.

Hummus

Fill a piece of Tupperware with a scoop of hummus, veggie sticks, and pita strips.

Perfect Guacamole

Holy guacamole! Your kids will love dipping baked tortillas into this mildly spiced classic recipe.

Cheesy Salsa Dip and Peanut-Butter-Ginger Dip

Cut up your child’s favorite veggies and pack them along with these tasty dips.

Recipes for…Healthy Desserts

Almond Macaroon Fingers

recipes-1A sweet treat like these cookies are the highlight of your child’s lunch hour.

Brownie Bites

Your child works hard all day. Give him or her a sweet reward with these rich brownies.

Figgy Bars

Skip the prepackaged bars and make your own lunchbox-friendly healthy treat.

Lemon Meringue Drops

Light and tangy, these sunny cookies are the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

Whole-Grain Ginger Snaps

Better-for-you whole-grain cookies are a great choice for a healthy lunchbox.

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies

Add chocolate chips or other favorite mix-ins to this healthier cookie dough.

Peanut Butter and Jam Bars

This hearty treat is perfectly packable. Experiment with different flavors of preserves.

Apple Crumb Squares

All the taste of pie, in easy-to-pack squares.


Read more: School Dessert Ideas – Best Healthy After Lunch Snacks & Desserts – Good Housekeeping

Teaching kids to eat healthfully starts with smart shopping

eat-healthyTeaching kids to eat healthfully starts with smart shopping. Fortunately, supermarkets are recognizing Americans’ interest in healthy eating, and there are plenty of healthy and good-tasting foods in almost every aisle of your favorite market. Getting the kids involved in navigating the store aisles to find the healthy stuff can not only be fun, it will help them to develop healthy eating patterns for life.

EatingWell’s handy shopping guide is the first stop to better nutrition, better value, and maybe even to putting a little healthy fun in your weekly shopping trip.

Produce Section

Go for variety. Buying the fruit and vegetables your children like assures that they’ll eat plenty of them but what about trying the ones they’ve never even heard of? How about jicama, papaya, tomatillos, mango or even artichokes? It’s always a good idea to look for what’s in season: it will be fresher and may even pack in some extra nutrients.

Prewashed and peeled veggies, such as mini carrots or celery sticks, make great snacks. Apples, pears, peaches, oranges and bananas are lunchbox-ready, but any fruit is easy to pack, simply cut it up and put it into little single-serving containers.

Cereal Aisle

It’s no secret that prime real estate in the cereal aisle is at children’s eye level, so they can easily spot the sugary cereals and beg Mom and Dad to buy them. Try to resist there are plenty of healthier options that still satisfy a sweet tooth. Be sure to look for whole- grain cereals high in fiber (5 grams or more) or cereals that have less than 9 grams of sugar per serving.

Juice aisle

Only buy 100% juice and avoid other beverages that include such ingredients as “high-fructose corn syrup,” “artificial color” and “artificial flavor.”

Soda aisle

Keep walking. But, if your kid loves the fizz and carbonation, grab some flavored seltzer waters they have 0 calories and 0 sugar. Or make your own spritzer by adding add a splash of 100% fruit juice to seltzer.

Dairy section

Choose low-fat dairy options over whole milk and full-fat varieties; they usually have all the same nutrients and benefits without all the fat. Individual packs of cottage cheese and yogurt make great snacks, as do low-fat string cheese and individually wrapped cheese squares. Yogurts can be high in added sugar, so be sure to read the label and pick those with little added sugar. Take advantage of lunchtime as a great opportunity to give your kids natural sources of calcium.

Snack-food aisle

This can be a tough aisle with all the options out there: a zillion potato chips, pizza-flavored tortilla chips and sugar-laden cookies and bars with new ones filling the shelves every day. Weeding out the good from the bad is a challenge but here are some tips to get you started:

  • Go for baked instead of fried potato chips or corn chips.
  • Limit portion size 1-ounce portion is plenty.
  • Avoid trans fats – you’ll find it on the nutrition label.
  • Chose whole-wheat pretzels or crackers over non-whole-grain varieties.

Grab some all-natural granola bars as well; look for ones that contain whole grains, nuts, seeds and pieces of dried fruit.

Frozen section

Bags of frozen fruit and vegetables can come in handy when you’re out of fresh produce. Pack a small container of frozen berries alongside a cup of yogurt for a quick mix-in. Frozen veggies in a quick stir-fry at dinner can be packed for an easy lunch the next day.

Must-Have Kid-Friendly Kitchen

Countertop

Keep a variety of washed fruits on the counter for quick snack options:

  • Bananas-look for miniature bananas, they’re the perfect size!
  • Apples
  • Clementines or mandarin oranges
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Plums
  • Pears

Peaches/Nectarines

Pantry

  • Nuts-All nuts are healthy but nuts in their shell have the added benefits of giving the eater something to do to help prevent mindless eating; try unshelled peanuts or pistachios. Other nuts, such as almonds, pecans, cashews, are all healthy options that deliver 160-170 calories per ounce. Dried and toasted soy nuts are another option.
  • Dried fruit – raisins, apricots, figs, blueberries, pineapple, craisins
  • Trail mix-either homemade or store-bought
  • Cereal-It’s not just for breakfast add it to homemade trail mix or just put it in a small container to snack on; granola or whole-grain varieties are best.
  • Whole-grain snack crackers
  • Granola bars made from whole grains and without high-fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit leather made from 100% fruit; it’s not the same as eating the real thing, but it’s darn close. How can you be sure it’s fruit leather? Pureed fruit should appear as the first ingredient.
  • Whole-wheat bread and wraps
  • Baked snack chips and pretzels, preferably whole-grain varieties

Veggie chips/sticks: They crunch like potato chips, but are made from vegetables like squash, spinach and tomatoes.

Refrigerator

Drinks

  • Low-fat (1-2%) milk or soymilk
  • 100% fruit and vegetable juice (look for low-sodium varieties of vegetable juice)

Flavored seltzer water

Dairy

  • Cups of low-fat fruit yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Drinkable yogurt smoothies
  • Fat-free puddings
  • Low-fat string cheese

Individually wrapped squares and wheels of low-fat cheese

Vegetables

  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Celery and baby carrots
  • Low-fat dressings or dip for veggies

Bagged, premade salads

Fruit

  • Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
  • Sliced fruit – pineapple, melons, mangoes or apples

Grapes

Protein

  • Sliced roasted turkey or chicken breast
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Hummus

Other

  • Jelly/jams/preserves with no added high-fructose corn syrup
  • Premade vegetable sushi

Jarred salsa

Freezer

  • Frozen fruit – bags of berries or any other cut-up fruit
  • Low-fat pizza rolls
  • Individual cups of ice cream

100% fruit popsicles

Weekend Collaboration – Working with your kids to pack snacks they’ll actually eat

Involving children in the process of making food gives them ownership over what they put in their mouths and can lead to healthier food choices in the long run. Make snacks with them in advance that can be stored and packed in their lunches another day. Try making some of our fun and easy recipes with your kids today.

Reprinted with permission from EatingWell Magazine.

Top 5 Worst Lunch Foods For Kids

From fake fruit to carcinogenic chicken, how to avoid lunchtime’s worst pitfalls — and what to feed your kids instead.

Fruit Snacks

Nix it: Dentists hate them because they’re the number one cause of tooth decay. Parents hate them because they’re filled with artificial colors and flavors. But kids love them—of course. And why wouldn’t they? They’re basically candy with a health halo. Despite being labeled with the word “fruit,” most fruit snacks contain very little, if any, actual fruit. Even fruit snacks that do contain real fruit (and no, “fruit juice” doesn’t count) are missing the satiating fiber and water that comes with whole fruit.

Fix it: Grapes, berries, and peeled tangerines are just as finger-food friendly as fruit snacks, and most kids love the taste. And hey, raisins are nature’s fruit snacks!

Packaged Desserts

Nix it: Nobody sends a Ho-Ho, Twinkie, or Honey Bun to school with their child because they think it’s healthy. We let our kids have them because they love them, and we love treating our kids. And what mom out there hasn’t holed up with a Swiss Roll and a glass of milk during naptime every once in awhile? Unfortunately, snack cakes are one of the worst sources of trans fats, the man-made fats that experts agree are the worst type of fat to eat. In fact, the USDA advises completely avoiding trans fats as part of a healthy diet.

Fix it: I’m just going to be the bad guy and say it: Kids don’t need dessert at every meal. Treats should be a treat, not a staple. That said, for times when you do want to send something sweet, there are lots of dessert options. Try making cookies from scratch (cheaper than a mix and just as easy, I promise!) and saving them in the freezer to serve one at a time. Make them with your kids, and you get quality time, too!

Juice Boxes

Nix it: Anyone who’s ever handed a kid a juice box in the car only to watch them power wash the upholstery with it knows that those conveniently packaged sugary drinks can be dangerous. But it turns out they can be dangerous for your child’s health, too. Sugar is sugar—even if it is fruit sugar—and when it’s in commercially juiced form, it’s missing all the fiber that makes the original fruit so filling. While juice is delicious, nobody needs to drink it.

Fix it: You don’t have to ban juice forever, but try to save it for special occasions and encourage kids to get their servings of fruit from whole fruits. If your kids have a texture issue, you can always preserve the fiber and vitamins by juicing the fruit yourself or making smoothies with whole fruits, yogurt and ice.

Crackers

 Nix it: Who doesn’t love the crunchy, buttery goodness of a cracker? Unfortunately, most of them are nutritionally void. Serving crackers made from white flour and preservatives that are cooked in unhealthy oils will leave your child tired and cranky.

Fix it: There’s a difference between 100% whole grain products and those “made with whole grain” so experts advise reading the labels and looking for brands with a short list of ingredients and at least three grams of fiber. Instead of crackers, try subbing in 100% whole grain pita pockets or naan cut into small pieces.

Lunch Meats

Nix it: Don’t you hate it when “experts” tell you that your favorite food is killing you? (Hello, cookies!) Yet when it comes to lunch meats, your food might actually be, well, killing you. Before you get all up in arms about ditching this lunch staple, the only lunch meats I’m talking about are the ones processed with nitrates. Nitrates and nitrites are food preservatives that do a much better job of preserving food than they do people. Research shows that people who eat nitrate-packaged foods including lunch meat, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and jerky drastically increase their risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Fix it: Try to steer clear of processed meats and when you do buy packaged lunch meat, hot dogs and the like, buy the preservative-free varieties. Be sure to read the labels as just having the word “natural” on the package doesn’t mean a thing. They may be a little bit more expensive, but it’s worth it!


Read more: 5 Worst Lunch Foods For Kids – Healthy Lunch Options – Redbook

Talking to Children About Flu

Advice for Parents on Talking to Children About the Flu

advice-for-parents-flu-palm-harbor-shool
Focus on what your child can do to fight the flu and to not spread flu to others.

The Flu: A Guide For Parents

What is the flu?

parent-tips-clearwater-palm-harbor-schoolInfluenza (the flu) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by influenza viruses. There are many different influenza viruses that are constantly changing. They cause illness, hospital stays and deaths in the United States each year.

The flu can be very dangerous for children. Each year about 20,000 children younger than 5 years old are hospitalized from flu complications, like pneumonia.

What To Look For In Classrooms

In a sincere effort and desire to be better able to support teachers, parents have asked, “What are some classroom practices I might look for to assess the application of current research?” The following questions may be helpful for parents to keep in mind during classroom visits and to teachers for the purpose of self-evaluation.

  • Is there a balance of teacher and student talk?
    Is the teacher’s voice the main voice or are students doing much of the talking? Does every child have an opportunity to be heard? Are teachers directing, or are they guiding and leading?
  • Do the students know the routines and procedures?
    Do the students rely on the teacher every time they have a question, or do they know the routines, assume responsibilities, use peers as helpers, and assume some self-management? Do things seem disorganized, or is there a well-planned flow from one activity to another?
  • Are the classroom walls by and for children?
    Is the children’s work displayed everywhere? Are the bullentin boards done by the children, with samples of writing, illustrations and projects, or are they commercial, perfect and cute?
  • Does the seating arrangement and teacher control allow for collaboration?
    Are students isolated in rows, or are they grouped so they can confer and assist each other building social and communication skills?
  • Is the teacher with the children?
    Is the teacher always standing front and center or sitting at his/her desk, or is he/she mostly among the children, demonstrating, facilitating, and guiding as needed?
  • Is there an orderly hum of activity?
    Is the classroom silent, or are students quietly talking with each other and actively engaged in various enterprises?
  • Is reading time focused on comprehension and understanding?
    Are children spending most of reading time oral reading, working on “skills,” and responding to literal level questions, or do they have frequent opportunities for self-selected, self-paced reading, responding to open-ended questions and participating in high-level discussions?
  • Is the independent work the children are doing meaningful?
    Are worksheets and workbooks being used with fill-in-the blank formats, or are there other purposeful activities that encourage open-ended responses which require thinking and application of experience and knowledge?
  • Do the children have choices?
    Is everyone doing the same activity, or are there opportunities for children to make decisions about their work for the day? Are there self-selected reading and writing activities?
  • Are there opportunities for students to work together?
    Are all activities being completed individually, or are pairs and groups of children reading, writing and problem solving together? Is there time for sharing, collaborating and contributing?
  • Is there a classroom library and cozy reading corner?
    Are there all types of literature attractively displayed and accessible to children? Are there reference books, dictionaries and thesauruses available? Is there a pleasant reading area where children can read in a comfortable position and with a friend?
  • Are there learning centers?
    (Learning centers should be evident at all grade levels.) Are those opportunities for exploration in centers such as math, science, listening, art, etc.? Is there an area where children can find different kinds of paper, writing, supplies, art materials, measuring tools and maps, globes and atlases?
  • Does the teacher use anecdotal records and observational data in evaluation?
    Does the teacher use only checks and grades in a grade book or is there also evidence of informal, observational data showing faculty knows and understands individual students?
  • Does the teacher provide demonstrations of literacy events?
    Does he/she read aloud? Does he/she teach skills in context? Does he/she teach conventions and qualities of good writing through mini-lessons? Does he/she model what good readers do through think-alouds and other strategic behaviors?
  • Does the teacher work with flexible groups?
    Does the teacher sometimes work with the whole group and other times with small groups or individuals?
  • Do children feel successful?
    Does the teacher provide experiences and materials that ensure each child success? Does the teacher accept approximations in reading and writing? Does the teacher celebrate each child’s attempts?
  • Do the students seem happy and actively involved?
    Are the children passively completing assignments, or are they excited about the opportunities for learning in their classroom?