You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

The gift of Grandparents!

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.” – Rudolph Giulian

This past weekend all 4 of our children and their cousins spent time with my parents.  While there, the kids helped a bit in the yard, were fed non stop and enjoyed the company of both their cousins and their grandparents.  Their relationship with both my husband’s parents and my parents have been very special, from times camping and fishing to even college spring breaks with the snow birds.   I am not kidding, all 4 of our kids and even some of their college roommates have spent their college spring breaks with the 65 and older crowd in Gulf Shores the past several years.  Every year I feel my heart melt when I see pictures of my kids enjoying the sunshine and their grandparents.   What great times and memories the kids have tucked away.

Relationships with grandparents are so valuable to children.  When nurtured, a relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild can become a very special life long bond.  Grandparents should not step on a parent’s role as the primary authority figure, but assume the role of providing unconditional love, hugs,  fun, and support.  I believe that parents really need to invite grandparents to be a part of their children’s lives.  Grandparents also need to be willing to be involved in their grandchild’s life.  When the relationship is embraced by all,  the value is multifaceted.

  • Grandparents can provide a little loving indulgence to your child.  There is something special and exciting for a child to receive a treat like a package of  M &Ms, to be allowed to stay up a little later, or to get a little  special attention all to themself from a grandparent.  Grandparents really can’t “spoil” a child, because usually their indulgences are for a short time.  Children who get daily indulgences from parents are more at risk of  being “spoiled”.  That little bit of special attention and treats from a grandparent is just so special to a child.
  • Grandparents are living historians for your child. Hearing  stories about the lives of grandparents when growing up, and stories about the child’s parents when they were young give a child a real feeling of connection to the family in a very special way.  What fun for a child to hear about life before cell phones, or picturing their Mom or Dad at their age!
  • Grandparents are cheerleaders.  Grandparents usually see the positive in their grandchild.  Most of the time, a grandchild can do no wrong in a grandparent’s eyes.  What a special gift for a child to have a constant cheerleader in their life.  Grandparents love their grandchildren for who they are, not how they perform.
  • Grandparents are special friends.  Because a grandparent usually is not responsible for day to day care and discipline, they can become the “fun friend”, and confidant for their grandchild.  Because of a grandparent’s life experience, they can provide a bit of balance to a grandchild who may be upset.  They provide a safe place for children when they sometimes can’t talk to a parent.  They are another safe adult in a child’s life.
  • Grandparents provide special fun.  Grandparents are often more relaxed and lenient than a parent…which is not a bad thing!
  • Grandparents are wise.  Never underestimate the value of wisdom.  I know there have been many changes in parenting over the years, these changes tend to be regarding the “how to” of parenting.  The “how to” of  starting solid foods, the “how to” of car seats, the “how to” of safe sleep, and the list of new “how tos” goes on.  However, there is a piece of wisdom in parenting that never changes, and sometimes it takes a parent who has “been there, done that” and loves you and your child to impart the wisdom needed in a parenting situation.
  • Grandparents teach the value of senior citizens.  Children need to learn the unique gifts which people with some gray hair can share with them and remember that the love and care you show to your own parents, will teach your children how to love and care for you in the future.

I know for some it is an impossibility for you to have a healthy relationships with your parents.  A parent should never place their child with anyone who would be at risk of harming them physically or emotionally.  There are also those of us whose parents are no longer with us, and our children will not meet their grandparents except through the sharing of stories about their lives.  In either case, “grandparents” can be adopted and loved.  There are many older people who need a young child in their life as much as the young child needs them.  Search out a relationship with another older “grandparent”.  Intergenerational relationships have such value.

Foster those relationships with grandparents.  Make an effort to share everyday news and happenings with them.  Encourage your child to talk on the phone, send pictures, and go on outings with Grandma and Grandpa.  Relationships that are encouraged and fostered result in a priceless relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent.  Our children have special memories of Brad’s parents, and continue to build memories with mine.  What a gift, a priceless gift!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Easter egg hunts and the importance of family tradition

Easter always brought out the hats, gloves, and even with my husband’s protest….plaid shorts and sweaters for Connor!  The dress will be a little different this weekend, I am sure!  :)

I am so very blessed to have all four of our children home this coming weekend to celebrate Easter.  It is easy to plan the weekend, because it is almost exactly the same every Easter!  The girls will not be wearing white gloves and Easter bonnets like they did when they were young, but all four will be dressed up for church Easter Sunday morning.  The eggs will be colored Saturday evening, the Easter dinner menu will include the traditional ham, “Easter cole slaw”, and other favorites, and of course there will be an egg hunt.  As the children have gotten older, of course there are a few changes…the egg hunt now includes eggs filled with quarters or maybe a few gift certificates and a few “golden eggs” with a little extra cash for pizza or a movie. There is a real feeling of serious business as they head out for the eggs!  The sweet little egg hunt they had when they were young with their cousins has become a race to the finish with winning in mind.  The last few years we had a couple of the kids’ college friends join us and  I always wondered what they thought when I handed them a basket for the egg hunt.  Things will eventually change a bit again when our season in life brings us grandchildren, but the basics of the celebration will always remain the same….because as our kids say, “That is how we always do it!”

If we are smart we listen to our children when they say “That is how we always do it!” even when we have only done it that way one other time.  Your child is not just talking about the good time he had, but the fact that it meant something to him and he thinks to you too.  One of my favorite quotes is from the book  The Little Prince by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “We live not by things, but the meaning of things.”  It is not what you do or eat that is important, it is the meaning and feeling that comes with what you are doing that is so important to your child.

Creating your own special rituals now and faithfully repeating them throughout your child’s life will provide your child with a sense of security, stability, belonging and pride in his family.  It is never too early to start your own family traditions.

Four reasons tradition is important to a family:

1.  Traditions helps make life predictable.  Rituals that are followed daily, weekly, and yearly such as family dinners, nightly stories, spring picnics, holiday songs etc. helps make children feel secure.  Their world is often unpredictable—keeping things predictable at home gives security.

2.  Traditions give families a time to connect.  Sometimes we can feel unconnected when we get busy.  Family meals, stories, game nights etc. help us reconnect and start talking.  Soon we know what is going on in our children’s lives.

3.  Family traditions teach children what their family values are.  Service work, religious ceremonies, concern for the environment and many other values can be established through family traditions and activities.  These are values that when they are reinforced with traditional activities, your child will bring with him to adulthood.

4.  Tradition forms family identity.  Build a family group for your child to feel connected to and this will often prevent them from trying to find other less suitable groups to identify with.  A child’s family is a huge piece of their identity.

Traditions can be very simple…it is the act of repeating them, allowing them to change with your family’s “season in life” and keeping them fun that is the key.  If something is not fun anymore, then let it go!

Don’t get hung up on creating the prefect rituals, let them happen naturally based on what your family enjoys. Many traditions just happen.  The wonderful thing about becoming your own family is that you get to create your own traditions from scratch.  Some you will come up with on your own, some you will borrow, and some you will discard from your past, but the traditions will become part of who your family is.

Some suggestions to try that might be fun:

1.  The Easter Egg hunt…definitely a tradition.

  • Hide a combination of plastic filled eggs and hard boiled
  • Hide baskets
  • Fill plastic eggs with clues to a bigger prize
  • Use “bunny prints” to guide your child to his or her basket
  • Put out carrots for the Easter Bunny
  • Purchase a “special” basket for each of your children to be re-used each year
2.  Coloring Easter Eggs
  • Hard boil the eggs, let them cool slightly and let the kids “color” on them with crayons.  The heat of the egg will melt the crayon just enough to make it easier.
  • Use stickers to decorate the eggs until you are ready to tackle egg dye.
  • Have an egg decorating contest
  • Glitter eggs…roll eggs is glue and glitter
  • Use fine tip markers to decorate detailed eggs
  • Try marbling eggs by adding a little vegetable oil to the dye you are using
  • Tear up different colored tissue paper and glue it on the eggs for a stain glass window look
3.  Read stories about spring, baby animals, and the Religious meaning of Easter
4.   Baking
  • Traditionally at the end of a Lenten fast, many families indulge in sweets, find an Easter dessert that you can make together.
5.  Traditional Easter brunch, lunch or dinner
  • Find a menu that everyone enjoys, and make it your own!  Spring marks the start of lots of fresh local foods.  I can’t wait for the fresh new asparagus for our Easter dinner!
6.  If your Easter includes Religious tradition, it is never too early to include the children.  Clean them up and head to church.  Waiting until they can “sit still” might be years!  Attending church together as a family, even with young children, is essential if you are instilling this value in your child.  It might be challenging with young children, but worth it in establishing the value and the habit.  There is something so sweet in seeing wiggly children in church…I love it!
Remember, family tradition endears your children to their family and establishes a bond.  The celebration, the meal, and the activities do not need to be perfect, the perfection comes from a celebration steeped in tradition and full of fun memories that draws a family together….that is perfection
Share some family traditions that you hope to establish!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Reese Eggs….and other healthier choices for Easter baskets!

I am going to be honest…I will have my fair share of Reese Easter Eggs this coming Sunday!  I love them, along with a few Whopper eggs.  Candy is a huge part of Easter celebrations in many homes.  I believe that everything has its place in moderation (thus the Reese Eggs) but of course there are lots of other options for filling Easter baskets!  Spring is a great time to be thinking about some outdoor activities and toys to fill those baskets.  Traditionally, our kids always got a few of those items, like sidewalk chalk and bubbles.  Target dollar aisle is a great place to start!  Take a look at the list below, there are lots of options….post a few of ideas that you have that will make your little one smile on Easter!  My kids will still get a basket on Sunday, yes, even at their ages!  I will put a few healthy choices in their baskets, but they won’t be complete without a little chocolate!

  1. Bubbles
  2. Sidewalk chalk
  3. Cute socks
  4. Hair bows or clips
  5. Matchbox cars
  6. Sand bucket and shovel
  7. Stacking cups
  8. Punching balloons
  9. Beach ball
  10. Plastic boats
  11. Rubber balls
  12. Slinky
  13. Windmills
  14. Jump ropes
  15. Play-dough
  16. Crayons
  17. Coloring books
  18. Preschool scissors
  19. Finger Paint
  20. Stickers
  21. Books
  22. Vegetable/Flower seeds and child sized garden tools
  23. Sun hat
  24. Sun screen
  25. Water bottle
  26. Movie tickets
  27. Sun glasses
  28. Flip flops
  29. Pool shoes
  30. Kites
  31. Flashlight
  32. Bug catcher
  33. Magnifying glass
  34. Cute toothbrush
  35. Silly straws
  36. Small dinosaurs
  37. Magnetic letters
  38. Sponge balls and toys
  39. Squirt toys
  40. Parachute men
  41. Model airplanes
  42. Card games
  43. Sunglasses
  44. Finger puppets
  45. Hula hoops
  46. Small musical instruments like egg shakers and harmonicas
  47. Bath toys

Fill those plastic eggs with:

  1. Yogurt covered raisins
  2.  Dried fruit
  3. Fish crackers
  4. Teddy Grahams
  5. Stickers
  6. Cereal
  7. Puzzle pieces…they can put them together to see if all the eggs have been found!
  8. Marshmallows
  9. Pretzel snacks
  10. Granola mix
  11. Washable tatoos

Non-candy treats for the basket:

  1. Granola
  2. Squeezable yogurt
  3. Dried fruit
  4. Popcorn
  5. Bags of pretzels
  6. Fresh baked items
  7. Fresh fruit
  8. Fruit cups
  9. Small tubs of “peanut butter to go” for dipping
  10. Honey straws
  11. 100% juice box
  12. Small packages of cheddar bunny crackers

Baskets are great…but you can put your Easter basket items in the back of a dump truck, in a baby stroller, shopping cart, sand bucket, beach bag,…get creative!

Post a few ideas that you have!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Why is my baby crying???

purple crying

Is your baby in a PURPLE phase of crying???

I know the look….I remember the feeling.  Every week I see a new Mom with exhausted worried eyes, and the question, “Is this crying and fussing normal?”  Most new parents are not prepared for the amount of crying their precious bundle produces!  Let’s face it, every baby cries…some more than others, and crying can really stress exhausted parents out.

Parents want to comfort their baby, even prevent their crying.  The truth is, there are times that babies just cry and soothing can be difficult.  Beginning at about 2 weeks, most babies will begin fussy periods.  The peak of crying usually occurs between 1 and 2 months of age and usually reduces at about the 3 to 4 month mark.  Is this colic?  Reflux? Fussiness?  Maybe….

There often is not a real reason for a newborn baby’s crying.  Sometimes it is best to concentrate on what might soothe than searching for the why.  After all, there has been many many studies reviewed trying to determine the answer of why babies fuss and what works to soothe.  Parents will often ask me what I think about probiotics, herbal supplements, gripe water, and other treatments for a fussy baby.  I always caution about “giving” a baby a supplement or treatment that is not prescribed or has not been tested completely.  Studies have shown that none of these alternative treatments actually decrease crying.  A 2011 review by the American Academy of Pediatrics of 15 large studies showed that none of these methods really helped much.  We need to be very cautious about putting anything into our babies that has no evidence base of effectiveness.  Many of these alternative therapies have not been thoroughly tested for safety.  Remember that the words “all natural” are not proof that a supplement is actually safe or effective.

Some soothing techniques are worth a try.  I think swaddling and white noise is effective for many babies.  Dr. Harvey Karp touts the 5 S’s which work for many new parents and infant massage can be calming for both parents and baby.  Walks, swings, rocking, car rides, watching for sleep cues, and other soothing techniques are all worth a try for normal newborn fussiness and crying.

Normal newborn fussiness should decrease dramatically by 4 months…and if it doesn’t then parents need to talk further with their health care provider.  Babies in the first 4 months may actually be unsoothable about 5-15% of the time, fuss about 65% of the time and cry about 35%  of the time (that is a lot of crying!) according to Dr. Barr an infant crying specialist (yes there is such a thing!)  Dr. Barr talks about a PURPLE period of crying that ALL babies go through.  Some babies cry up to 5 hours a day and some for as little as 20 minutes, but all babies during the first 3 months have periods of crying and are difficult to soothe.  These periods can result in a Mom and Dad becoming worried, frustrated, and on edge.  Many times parents will feel like they are doing something wrong!  We just don’t expect our baby to seem so unhappy!  The good news….most babies have a significant drop in crying between the 3rd and 4th month of age.

P-Peak  Your baby may cry more each week.  The most is at 2 months and may decrease by 3 to 5 months.

U-Unexpected Crying can come and go and you don’t know why.

R-Resists soothing Your baby may not stop crying or fussing no matter what you try.

P-Pain like face Your baby may look like he is in pain, even when he is not.

L-Long lasting.  Crying can last as long as 5 hours in a day.

E-Evening Your baby may cry more in the late afternoon or evening.

This is NORMAL developmental crying….the PURPLE phase!


So what does a Mom and Dad DO to help during these weeks of PURPLE crying during the newborn period?

  1. Discuss your baby’s crying with your health care provider at a well-baby check.  Decide together whether your baby’s crying is simply the PURPLE period or if there is a health related issue.  Sometimes simply knowing that your baby is healthy will help you deal with the crying!
  2. If it is normal developmental infant crying…then concentrate on different soothing techniques and quit asking WHY, there probably is no answer to the why!!
  3. Try the Happiest Baby on the Block technique, take walks outside in the fresh air and sunlight (this helps your mood and is soothing to baby) decrease the stimulation in the house, play soothing music, try white noise, and most importantly….take a break and ask for help when you need it!
  4. Remember, it is fine to put your baby down in a safe place and take a break.  Take 15 minutes to stand in the shower, walk out on your porch, sip a cup of tea….but take a break so you can cope with the crying in a calm manner.  Call a friend and ask for help if you are unable to cope calmly.  Never handle your baby roughly or shake your baby in frustration, this can cause permanent injury.  Remember, even very good and loving parents can become frustrated with a fussy baby, take a break.
  5. Remember, holding your baby and soothing will not spoil your child at this age and it will help you both get through this PURPLE period.  This too will pass, just like all challenges of parenthood……

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Are the “Magic Words” still important?

Why is it that so often when you want your child to be on his or her best behavior…the most embarrassing things happen?  (Remind me to write about my son when he was 2 1/2 and dinner with our parish priest…long story)  Simply, because children are not born with manners…and the development of manners is a process, a LONG process, a LONG and IMPORTANT process.   This process of learning the all important life skill of manners  is much easier when started very young during formative years.  Words like “please” , “thank you”, “ excuse me”, and “I’m sorry” need to be taught, practiced, and modeled at home from the time your child is a baby.

Manners really help shape a person’s character, help increase a person’s self confidence, and definitely help make a person more likeable.  Manners are a part of most successful people’s lives.  People that naturally practice good manners have less focus on “self” and more focus on the respect of others. That is what I want for my children! Manners are so much more than just please and thank you!

Our children are exposed to very different social norms today.  Society is very open and allows honest expression of feelings.  I agree that honest expression is important, but we need to teach our children ways to respect the needs and feelings of others while still expressing their own feelings and needs.

I think some of our pop culture actually rewards disrespect.  Some of the most popular TV shows, popular music, and professional athletes glorify being rude and disrespectful…it has suddenly become “cool”.  As parents, it is our role to provide teachable moments so our children more often hear and see what is polite and respectful rather than what society may be teaching is the norm and “cool”.

So the fact is, no one is born polite.  In fact children, especially toddlers, tend to throw fits, grab toys, throw food, and display very few if any glimpses of manners…and we parents should not expect it!  Developmentally toddlers are not naturally polite!  However, your teen will not be polite either if you don’t start introducing the concept of manners and respect at a young age.

Where do you begin?

Between the age of 6 and 12 months begin with The Magic Words….

“Please”  “Thank you” and “Excuse me”

Saying please and thank you is usually the first bit of manners parents begin to teach.  You can begin this before your child is verbal.  Many parents teach the sign for “please” and “thank you” starting at about 6 to 9 months of age.  I see many of the youngest toddlers in my parenting groups sign “please” before getting their fishy cracker snack!  Parents should always prompt, “What do we say?” or “Say please!” or “Say thank you!”  If your toddler aged child does not respond, then you should say the words and provide the sign for your toddler.  Soon, “please” and “thank you” will become a part of who your child is…and will be words that are used by habit.

Saying “Excuse me” when interrupting, bumping into someone, or (heaven forbid) making a bodily noise (which is hysterically funny for young boys especially) will also serve your child well.  Once again, forming the habit early and modeling the behavior for your child is essential.

“Play nice” “Gentle” and “Share”

Toddlers are incapable of playing cooperatively and sharing nicely.  Preschoolers should have begun to master those concepts, but that will only happen with teaching and modeling the acceptable behavior.  When you begin to see your older infant or young toddler grab, push, or hit…respond with “Gentle touch.  Let’s play nice and share.”  Help your child share by trading the toys back, helping him take turns, and praising him for cooperating.  Toddlers who hit, shove, or bite when angry should immediately “take a break” or in other words a “time out”.  As you play with your child, trade toys back and forth, offer to share, model gentle touch and the behavior you want your child to learn.  After much practice, children will begin to learn how to play cooperatively, share, and respond with words rather than physical action.

“I am sorry”

Few words are more important in life than these.  Teaching your child to apologize when he or she is wrong or behaves in a way that is not respectful is an essential piece of manners.  Those words must be modeled by parents; apologizing to your child is essential to your child learning what a true apology is.  Again, teaching the sign for “sorry” can be the start.  Helping your child say “sorry” when necessary is also key.  If your child hurts another child or takes a toy, help your child apologize by prompting your child to sign or say the words, or say the words for him “John is sorry he shoved you, Mary.”  Talk about how saying sorry helps the hurt go away.

Talk and read about manners and respectful behavior every day. Some of my favorite books to introduce respectful behavior and manners to toddlers are Manners Time (Toddler Tools) and Sharing Time (Toddler Tools)by Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


The “how to” of the discipline process

As promised, we will talk about the approach I like to teach when I speak to parents about discipline.  

Remember our mantra:  “Attention is attention to a child whether it is negative or positive, attention to a behavior reinforces it!”  And  “Consistency is the key.”

A few pointers to start:

1.  Set realistic guidelines. Know your child’s developmental stage. As a parent, you may want your child to share his toys with friends, sit still during church and say “please” and “thank you”, but  you have to consider what’s age appropriate when it comes to behavior — and gauge your expectations accordingly.  Do not discipline when the child is not able to comply because of age or development.

2.  Be patient. Patience is the key.  Often parents will complain that they have tried a discipline strategy and it didn’t work.  Timeout was tried over and over again, but the behavior continued.  Remember, it takes a while for your child to test to see if you really mean it, and then it takes a while for a child to gain control of the behavior.  Children’s temperaments also play a role.  Consistency is the key, say what you will do and then do what you say every single time.

3.   Acknowledge your child’s feelings. When it comes to discipline, parents need to be warm but firm.  Give your child the words to describe a feeling.  “I know you are frustrated, but we don’t hit.”  “I know you are angry with mommy”  “I know you are sad.”  Helping your child describe what he is feeling with words will eventually decrease the acting out.  This also helps your child begin to develop  empathy, he or she will know how others feel because they have felt it too.

4.   Listen. As your child gets older, parents will need to listen to a child’s reasoning.  It is fine to give an older child a chance to explain, and even accept the child’s explanation, but there should not be engagement in an argument. Arguing will not convince a child that as a parent you are right.  You simply will say, “I know that you don’t understand now and are upset, but this is my decision.”  Parents should never engage in an argument with young children; toddlers and preschool age children will never look at you and say “I understand Mom, I will go to time out!”  :)

5.  Model good behavior. To teach manners and socially acceptable behavior, most children will learn by modeling.  When a child is prompted “Say thank you.”  “Say I am sorry.” and the child sees the parent model the behavior,  they will eventually incorporate those manners and behaviors.  Do not force but help your child become socially acceptable.  If your child will not say please, thank you or sorry, say it for the child.  “Connor says “Please.”  Modeling poor language, yelling, name calling etc. will result in a child behaving like you!

6.   Give your child choices. Many times you can head off a conflict with choices.  Giving choices often increases cooperation.  When a child feels more control, they often will not act out as much.    Choices about which outfit to wear, choices between two healthy foods, even give choices for non negotiable things like brushing teeth.  “I know that you don’t like brushing teeth, but it is important, so would you like to brush your teeth now or after you put on your pjs?”  Find every day choices for your child.

7.  Know when to walk away. Temper tantrums are a child’s way of blowing off steam and communicating their frustration.  They are a part of almost every child’s normal growth and development during the toddler years.  Some children have more than others. If you respond to them then you validate that behavior; but if you ignore them you will see them gradually subside.  If a child is totally out of control with a tantrum,  sit next to your child, speak soothingly and place your hand on him gently. Touch will often calm.  Do not pick up and comfort, this will again encourage the behavior.  Tantrums often will occur when a child is hungry, tired, or has figured out that they work! Don’t engage with an older child if you feel like he is “pushing your buttons”.  If you feel frustrated walk away until you can respond calmly.  This won’t reinforce the behavior and teaches them appropriate behaviors to model.

8.  Be creative and fun. Many times a child will be more cooperative and need less discipline if a parent “plays to gain cooperation”.  For example, pretending to feed an animal the toys when you pick them up, racing the kitchen timer to get dressed, singing a brush your teeth song, …get silly, have fun, and watch your child cooperate!

  • Remember effective discipline must remove the most valued thing from a child, your attention.  Removing attention is much more effective than spanking or hand slapping which is a temporary fix.

The discipline technique I like is basically the “1, 2, 3 Magic” program developed by Dr. Thomas W.  Phelan PhD.  www.parentmagic.com  This program has been used by countless schools and parents for many years.  It is simple and effective, and can be used with a little modification clear until the teen years.  Even during the teen years, the basic principles are effective.  I teach this program with a few small changes, but this discipline process when used consistently will help with almost every discipline issue.

1,2,3 Magic

1.  The parent calmly gives a warning with words and by holding up 1 finger. “No touching the dog food. That’s one.”

2.  If the behavior stops great, if not the parent gives a 2nd warning by holding up 2 fingers and saying… “That’s two.”

3.  If the behavior stops, great if not the parent holds up a third finger and calmly says, “That is 3, time out.”  or  “That is 3, take a break.” Your child then takes a time out.  This time out should be in a specific place away from activity and toys.  If your child is a toddler, it will need to be in a place where the child can still see you.  If the child is older, the spot can be on a bottom step, in a chair in the other room, or when the child is about 4 or older, the bedroom is a good choice.  The “break” should be about a minute a year. When the “break” is  over,  you act as if nothing had happened.  There are no lectures, or lots of hugs and kisses.  This must be done without emotion or many words!  The more emotion and words that are used, the more attention has been given to the behavior. There should be one short explanation given to the child.  There is  no yelling, and no response to the continued complaining or a fit from the child.  This is so important!!  When a parent does not give a long explanation, does not get emotionally upset, and then follows through with an appropriate time out, the parental authority is unquestionable.  If this is done consistently, the child will know exactly what to expect from a parent.  Remember, consistency is the key!  

Common questions:

  • How long between counts?

Just long enough to give your child a chance to gain control of their behavior and respond.  This does not meant   “That is 1…1 1/2…Listen to Mommy!… 2…. Stop touching it!  You don’t want to go to time out!  2 1/2 …please stop….2 3/4….I really mean it…..!! There is only a few seconds between counts and no extra words or warnings.

  • What if there are several problem behaviors one right after the other?

You do not need to start a new count for each behavior.   For example.. “No cookies now.”  The child screams at you.  “That’s 1.”  The child runs and throws a toy.  “That’s 2.”  The child tries to take a cookie off the pantry shelf.  “That is 3, time out.”

  • What if the behavior is serious, like hitting?

There are several behaviors that you will determine are an automatic 3.  In our house that was hitting, biting, shoving and name calling.   Automatic time outs should occur for any behavior that is physical or aggressive.

  • What if your child counts with you?

I promise if you use this system your child will at some point count with you or give you a 1, 2 or 3 time out!  Try not to laugh.  It is up to you on your response.  You can ignore the counting completely.  No words, no emotions.  If you are able to do that, the behavior will stop.  I could not, it was like nails on a chalk board when one of my children counted with me…so it was an automatic time out in our house.  You decide!

  • What do you do in public?

This is a very common time for children to push the limits, especially if you do not follow through when you are not at home.  Always set your behavior expectations before getting out of the car.  “I want you to hold Mommy’s hand when we are in the store.”  If your child does act out in public, if you are consistent with the 1, 2, 3 Magic at home, often you can control your child’s behavior with just a 1 and a 2.  If you get to 3, then you must find an appropriate time out place where you are.  This could be leaving and going to the car, turning the shopping cart around in the grocery store away from you and ignoring, sitting your child on a chair in the center of the mall…or for a school aged child a delayed time out at home away from TV etc.   Do not go back to lots of talking and emotion when you are out trying to avoid the time out when in public.  If you are embarrassed and back down, then your child will quickly learn you will not follow through when you are out and about!

  • What if the child will not stay in time out?

You must continue to bring the child back to the time out place with no emotion or talking.  Your child will get it!  The first couple of days may result in many trips back to the time out spot, but you must be consistent!  For a young toddler you also may choose to remove the tray off the high chair, strap your child in, and turn the child away from you.  This is a great way to teach time out in the beginning. 

  • What if your child will not come out of time out when it is over?

Do not try to persuade—just say “you can come out when you are ready!”  If you give a lot of attention to this behavior “Come on now, it is all over.  Come on out and play.  Give Mommy a hug…..”  This will result in this behavior again, and may even reinforce the behavior that led to the time out!

  • What if my child yells at me and calls me a “mean mommy or daddy” or “I hate you!”?

I know that this will hurt…no parent likes to hear those words, but you must ignore the behavior!  Your child doesn’t really know what the impact of these words are, he is just angry.  You know that your child loves you and you love him, which is why you are disciplining!   Remember if you respond with emotion and a lot of words, the behavior will happen again!

So those are the simple rules for this discipline approach.  It does work…if the rules are followed.  Soon your child will know what to expect if a behavior is inappropriate and your home will not be filled with spanking, yelling, and lots of arguing and emotional responses.  It takes practice and it takes consistency.  Be patient with yourself!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


“Hurry up or I will leave without you!” and other discipline techniques that don’t work!

There are some discipline techniques that just don’t work as well as others!

I can remember sometimes simply reacting to a behavior of one of my kids, but not really using a discipline approach.  The result was never very effective.  Some typical reactions just don’t work, or result in other issues later.  Here are some of the most common “discipline reactions” that are usually not very effective:


  • “If you don’t hurry we’ll leave you here.”

Threats teach children not to take their parents seriously.  Give a child a consequence that you know you will follow through with and makes sense.  Your child knows that you will not leave them at home alone.  It is an empty threat, one that you will not follow through with.  Think twice, do what you will say!  A better choice if you have a child that is dawdling would be:

“If you don’t hurry we will not have time to play at the park on the way home from the store.”

Logical consequence and something you can follow through with.  So, those times I grounded a child for life….hmmmm

  • “No dessert unless you clean your plate.”

Do not use food as a punishment.  “No dessert unless you eat your broccoli” can result in two things.  Number one, you have told your child that dessert is better than broccoli…now in your opinion that may be true, :) but you want your child to think that nutritious food is on the same level as desserts!  Number two, children learn very quickly to negotiate and then parents usually back down.

“If I take one bit can I have dessert?”

 “No take two.”  

“How about one and a half?”  

“Take one.”

Child cries and whines.  Parent responds by giving in.  Soon a child figures out that negotiation works and  everything becomes a negotiation and is exhausting!

  • “What a good boy you are!”

Complimenting your child is wonderful.  We want to encourage behavior we like, but be specific as to why your child is good.

“You have been so good in the grocery store, I like how you sat in the grocery cart without trying to stand up!”

This type of statement  lets your child know what kind of behavior you expect and like, blanket praise does not work as well.

  • “If you loved me, you wouldn’t do that.”

Never connect behavior to love.  Your child loves you and you love your child unconditionally.  Do not try to control behavior by using guilt.  Give your child a reason to behave the way you would like.

 “It would be such a big help if  you picked up your toys out of the kitchen so I can make us dinner.”

“Help me put your shoes on so we can get to the store and buy food for lunch, what is your favorite for lunch?”

  • “If you don’t behave I’m going to call your father or mother or grandparent or Santa….”

This undermines your authority.  It is risky to show that you have no recourse other than to tell dad or another person.  You are the parent, don’t give your authority to someone else!  Besides, what can Santa do??

  • “Why did you do that?”  or   “What is wrong with you?”

Children don’t know why they behave wrong or can’t articulate a reason.  Asking won’t help them find a reason.  You can walk your child through the problem and help them find a reason for their behavior, describe the emotion your child is feeling, but asking why doesn’t work.  A child really doesn’t know why he or she just squirted all the lotion from the bottle  out on the floor!  Asking only frustrates you!

  • “Why can’t you be more like your sister or friend?”

Comparison is damaging.  Children should never feel like they need to compete for parental love.  Comparing siblings results in an increase in sibling rivalry and can damage the relationship between sisters and brothers.  Your child is unique!  I believe that rules in a home should be the same for all your children, but your discipline approach to each child may be slightly different depending on the temperament of the child.  Remember each child has special gifts and special challenges…your role as a parent is to embrace both.

  • “You are naughty!!”

You want to send the message that the behavior is bad—not the child.  Parents need to make it clear that they believe their kids are good at heart.

“Why did a kind kid like you say something so mean to your friend?”  “This is not like you behaving this way…”

Your child is not bad, the behavior is.

  • “If you behave, I’ll buy you a toy.”

Bribes won’t win you anything and makes it just plain expensive to get out of the grocery store every week if you are buying something in the check out lane!   If a parent uses bribes you may end up having to buy good behavior on an ongoing basis.  Reward charts do work, but reward charts are a temporary incentive and the best rewards are your time or a special activity not an item that is bought.  The toy you buy brings temporary excitement, your time tends to be a more lasting reward.  Continual bribing molds a child into an externally motivated child, as parents we would rather have a child develop internal motivation for good behavior.

  • Spanking 
Spanking is not an effective discipline tool.  Spanking or hand slapping may stop the behavior at the moment, but it does not teach.  Remember the root of discipline is teaching.  We have also learned that children that have a more aggressive temperament will increase their aggression if spanking is used as the discipline approach at home.  This type of discipline also sends a very confusing message.  There are other approaches that work better and are a better example for your child.  Parents also don’t want to spank when they are very angry or frustrated, this can result in taking your anger or frustration out on your child a little more aggressively than you had planned.

There were certainly times when I did not discipline in the most effective way!  We all react out of anger and frustration at times.  I can remember thinking, “Did I just say that?”  The key is using effective discipline MOST of the time, and not beating yourself up when you are not effective.  Remember too, there is a great lesson to your child when you apologize for not handling a situation well.

“I did not like the way you treated your sister a few minutes ago, but Mommy should not have said what she did.  I am sorry.”

We are parents, we are not perfect, but having an effective discipline plan and not simply reacting with emotion to an inappropriate behavior by your child is important!  Tomorrow….the plan!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


The New Statistics on Autism…What Do They Mean?


Autism in in the news again with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting this week that rates climbed by 30% from 2008 to 2010. With statistics like this, how can a parent not look at his child and begin to worry? There will be much written about this study….many potential reasons for the statistical increase will be discussed. The point I think parents need to remember is that Autism Spectrum Disorder needs to be diagnosed early, and many times parents are the best identifier.

The CDC can’t explain the reason for the rise. Coleen Boyle director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities stated “It may be that we’re getting better at identifying autism…We do feel like some of this has to do with how children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their communities.” It seems some communities may diagnose children on the autism spectrum more carefully. In Alabama, 1 in 175 children were diagnosed on the spectrum in 2010. This is compared to 1 in 45 in New Jersey. What does that mean? Are more children in New Jersey on the spectrum or are fewer children in Alabama diagnosed? About half of the children diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 2010 were average or above average in intelligence compared to just a third in 2002. Marshalyn Yergin Allsopp chief of CDC’s developmental disabilities branch points out that we now recognize that autism is actually a spectrum, she states, “Our understanding has evolved to the point that we understand that there are children with higher IQ’s who may not have been receiving services in the past.” Some experts are worried that this new report is not describing the same autism that was diagnosed 20 years ago. Could that be one of the reasons we are seeing such an increase?  Some trends have remained the same since the CDC began collecting data on autism over the last decade. Little boys are diagnosed five times more often than little girls and white children are more likely to be diagnosed than black or Hispanic children. Again we ask, why?

So what does this mean for parents….how can we read these statistic and not react with worry and concern? The truth is, we probably will be a bit more concerned and aware, and that is not wrong, but we must not let worry take over. Just as with any potential disease, worry will not change whether our children become ill or not. Being aware may help with early detection and intervention which is always the key.

Early detection of autism or any developmental delay is important so that a child can receive help early.  Early detection and intervention makes a huge difference for children!  Your child’s doctor should be looking at your child’s growth and development at each well child check.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s physician screen for developmental delays or early signs of autism at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 to 30 months.  Parents too can look for red flags that may need to be discussed with their child’s doctor.

Red Flags

Age 2 to 3 months

  • Your baby does not make good eye contact with you.Age 3 months
  • Your baby does not smile at you.Age 6 months
  • Your baby does not laugh.Age 9 months
  • Your baby is not babbling or making consonant sounds.Age 12 months
  • Your baby does not turn to you when you call his or her name.
  • Your baby does not wave bye-bye with encouragement.Age 12 to 14 months
  • Your baby does not have any words.Age 14 months
  • Your baby does not point at things.Age 18 months
  • Your baby does not pretend.
  • Your baby has less than 5 words.Don’t panic if you do not see one of these milestones, many times with encouragement or by providing increased opportunity children reach the milestone.  However, a conversation with your child’s doctor is important.  Because you are a parent, you know your child best!  If you have concerns, be sure that you insist that you have time to discuss them with your child’s doctor.  Every state has an early intervention program that can assess if a child has a developmental delay from birth to age 3.  These programs are free and referrals can be made by a health care professional or by a parent.  Indiana’s early intervention program is First Steps.  Any parent can access their states early intervention program by calling The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities at 1-800-695-0285.  This center can give you your state’s early intervention program’s contact information.If your child is age 3 or older and you have concerns, the public school system will complete the evaluation.  Contact your local elementary school or school board and they will give you the information needed to obtain developmental screening for your child.Most importantly, if you are concerned about your child’s development, don’t wait!  The earlier your child gets help, the more successful it is!  If your doctor doesn’t take you seriously, get another opinion. You are the parent, you are your child’s advocate!  Again, this study doesn’t give us any answers, only numbers.  The benefit of this study to you is simply to increase your awareness and encourage you to advocate for your child if you have concerns.  Worry solves nothing….

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Keeping the peace….

All smiles building the sandcastle…took some sibling cooperation…but life with four kids wasn’t always full of sibling cooperation!

“Mom, she is looking at me!”  “Mom, she is touching my stuff!”  “He called me dumb!”  “Ow, quit pinching me!” 

Ahh, the sounds of loving sisters and brothers.  I have heard these “wonderful” sounds often in our home.  Sibling rivalry and arguing is as old as time.  Look at Cain and Abel!  Even the most loving families have arguing between sisters and brothers.

Sibling rivalry and discord often does not rear its ugly head until a younger brother or sister becomes mobile and gets into the older child’s “stuff” and disrupts their playtime.  Conflict may continue as children get older because each child is an individual and has different temperaments.  Every child tries to define who they are and compete for attention in the family.

What is a parent to do when the fighting begins?  How can a family increase sibling cooperation and have peace?

  • Treat each child as a unique person instead of equals.  Yes, I said you CANNOT treat all of your children the same ALL of the time.  You can love your children the same, but you need to give to each child what he or she needs at the appropriate time.  Parents that try to keep everything EQUAL all the time actually foster rivalry.  If one of your children needs a new pair of shoes, you do not need to buy EVERYONE something to make it “even”.  If one child is having a particularly difficult time and needs more one on one time, then give that time to that child.  Your other children will need it at different times.  I have known parents that have actually kept a log of expenses for each child…kids realize these things, and will actually start to keep track themselves which makes it worse!  As a parent our job is to provide what every one of our children needs at the time they need it, not to be equal.
  • Avoid comparisons at all times.  Lifelong resentments are born from comparisons.  Celebrate the uniqueness of each of your children.  Point out their individual strengths and talents.  Nurture those strengths.  This sets each child apart from his or siblings and helps them build self-esteem.
  • Raise sensitive and empathetic siblings.  When one child is hurt, always have the other give comfort.  When a younger sibling needs to be taught a task, let the older child help out.  Describe feelings to your child, explain how a sibling might be feeling when they are upset.
  • Encourage family cooperation.    Assign tasks for children to do together, make them cooperate.  “Let’s pick up the playroom. Race the timer and see if you can beat it!”  Don’t set them up to compete by saying “Who can pick up the most toys?”
  • Plan family activities that are fun for everyone.  If your kids have good experiences together it increases family bonding.  Don’t “divide and conquer” as parents constantly.  Encourage siblings to support each other at sporting events, concerts, and school activities.
  • Pay attention to the time of day and other patterns when conflicts happen.  Maybe an earlier dinner, a quiet time in the evening, or a nap will help prevent conflicts.  Children fight more when they are hungry, tired, or bored.
  • Let your children work out conflicts on their own in most cases.  This helps them to learn conflict resolution.  Teach compromise.  Point out “win win” solutions and tell them that you are confident that they can work it out.
  • Don’t yell or lecture…it doesn’t help.
  • It doesn’t matter who started the argument, it takes two to argue.  Hold your children equally responsible when there is fighting.  There usually is one child that is the “pot stirrer” and one child that is louder and more dramatic!  Parents need to remain impartial and separate the siblings.  Separation can include going to their rooms if they are older, sitting in separate areas of the same room if they are younger, or I have had success with making them sit across from each other without talking.  This often ends up in both kids giggling!
  • Help your children express their feelings about each other.  Don’t just try to talk them out of their feelings.  “I know you are angry….”  “I know you are frustrated…”  “It must feel like it is not fair when…”
  • Set very clear boundaries.  In our home we do not hit, there is no name calling, and there are certain items that each child has that are off-limits without permission.  Allow your children to have some of their “own” things that do not have to be shared unless they choose.  Giving each child their own space and a few special things that are theirs alone is very helpful.  Their own space does not have to be their own room.  Actually, sharing rooms builds incredible bonds between siblings.  We opted to have a “playroom” and have our girls share rooms until the teen years.  There is just something about those late night talks….
  • Model good conflict resolution skills.  If your children see you yelling, name calling or putting other down, those “techniques” will show up in their conflicts.
  • Items that are handed down to siblings should be labeled as toys or clothing for a certain age…”these toys are for 3 year olds”, “this is the kindergarten box of clothes”, not these are your brother’s old toys or clothes.
  • Make spending time alone with each child a priority.  This does not have to be expensive outings, it could be just picking one child to run an errand with you alone.  Reconnecting with each child for a few minutes each evening worked great for us.  Just a few minutes of sitting on the bed before sleep talking about whatever might be important, or chatting about the day gave each child a bit of individual love and attention.  You might schedule special times too, maybe each child knows that one of their birthday gifts will be an afternoon alone with you!

With a little work, your children can develop close relationships with each other that will last through adulthood.  However, even with parents fostering these relationships, I promise you will still hear “Moooommmm, she is bugging me!”  Stop, don’t panic and remember, sibling rivalry is as old as time, why would your home be any different?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Vaccines….are they safe? Do they work?

Vaccines do work!  Don’t wait…vaccinate!

How Can a Parent Decide if Vaccines are Safe?

Every day parents are bombarded with information from doctors, nurses, TV hosts, books and the list goes on.  Parents are best served by listening to a team of experts.  We must trust the health care system that has given us the tools to prevent diseases that were so prevalent in children just a few years ago.  Committees of expert scientists, clinicians and health care providers serve on the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), the Infectious Diseases Society of America and other groups.  These experts look at scientific studies to see if they are performed carefully, are published in reputable journals and can be reproduced.  Studies that do not meet these standards are not considered reliable.  These groups have pulled vaccines in the past that have been determined to have unsafe side effects or side effects that outweigh the benefit of the vaccine.  The groups have also repeatedly looked at studies regarding vaccines and asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, SIDS and autism.  No studies have shown a reliable causal relationship between vaccines and these illnesses.  Be careful what you read…be sure it is reliable!

How vaccines work:

  1. A vaccine is usually given by a shot.  At this time, there is one oral vaccine for rotavirus and one nasal spray option for the flu vaccine.
  2. The vaccine contains a dead or weakened germ that will NOT cause the disease.
  3. The body makes antibodies to fight the weak or dead germs in the vaccine.
  4. These antibodies practice on the weak germs so when the real strong disease germs, which are still out there, enter the child’s body the ready antibodies will know how to destroy them and the child will not become sick.
  5. Antibodies fight infectious diseases and usually stay in a person’s system even after the disease is gone to protect him or her from getting sick again–that is immunity.
  6. Newborn babies are immune to many diseases because they have antibodies from their mothers—this only lasts about a year.  The timing of the vaccine schedule is such that a child will develop immunity to a disease before he or she is most vulnerable.
  7. Immunizations protect your child and the community—herd immunity.  Herd immunity protects unborn children, the elderly whose immunity may have waned and babies that are not yet fully immunized.
  8. When you choose to immunize your child and follow the recommended guidelines, your child is protected from diseases that can cause death, disability, or severe illness and even though we don’t often see these diseases; they are still out there today!

What About Side Effects?

If your definition of  safety is something that does not have any side effects–then a vaccine is not 100% safe.   All vaccines have side effects, but most of them are very mild.  This might include a fever, soreness, redness or swelling at the vaccine site, and fussiness.  Some side effects are more severe, but these are much rarer.  Some parents ask if it would be safer to avoid the vaccine and the possible side effects.  This is a choice that also has side effects, ones that are much more serious.  The risk of your child being infected with the disease the vaccine prevents is greater than the risk of the serious side effects.

I Never See These Diseases, Why Get a Vaccine?

Many of the diseases that vaccines prevent are common.  Pertussis or whooping cough is a very common disease that if your child is not immunized against–they are very likely to become ill with the disease.  This is a serious disease especially in infants and the elderly.  Last year in the Indianapolis area, there were large pockets of whooping cough outbreaks in several schools.

Many of the diseases could become common again.  H-flu diseases such as meningitis,and measles, mumps and rubella have all “popped up” in areas where the immunization rates have fallen.  A measles outbreak in the Indianapolis area during the Super Bowl a couple winters ago demonstrated how contagious this disease is and how quickly the disease can spread among children and adults who are not fully immunized.

Some diseases such as polio and diphtheria have essentially been eliminated from this country, but still occur in other countries.  We are a small world with many people traveling internationally; your child can be exposed to these diseases by traveling or by people who have entered this country.

Following the recommended immunization schedule is one of the best decisions you can make for your child’s health.  Don’t wait, vaccinate!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



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