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

The Teal Pumpkin Project



Teal Pumpkin Project

Halloween is such a fun time for children….but think about the anxiety of some parents and the disappointment of some children when a food allergy gets in the way of fun and safety. There are many children who have life threatening allergies to foods such as nuts. The fun of trick-or-treating can be replaced by anxiety and disappointment when those children receive treats which are not safe for them to have. Even candy that doesn’t obviously have nuts may be unsafe for the severely allergic as most have been produced in factories that have nuts and can’t guarantee there is no cross contamination.

There is a new “tradition” that is trying to be started, The Teal Pumpkin Project. With this movement, homes would post a teal colored pumpkin and sign showing they have non food item treats available at their home. What a great relief for parents to know that there is a safe option for their child and what fun for the child to know that he or she will actually get to keep the treat they receive at this house. Fun treats may include stickers, bubbles, rings, play dough, pencils, erasers, bouncy balls, kazoos, crayons, to name a few! I have become more aware of the challenges parents and children face when severe food allergies are part of their lives…I hate to imagine the disappointed eyes that a sweet child I work with may have when she receives an unsafe treat. Hard to explain to a 6 year old “princess”. So, let’s make an effort to include non food item treats in our Halloween shopping this year. Keep it fun and safe for all the little super heroes, princesses, ghosts, and goblins that ring your doorbell.

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


Trick or Treat….Safely!!

There are few more fun times for a child than Halloween!  Make sure the fun is safe fun!  Our little clown had a wonderful time!

I was at Target today buying my Halloween treats for my little trick-or-treaters that will visit our house this next week.  (May be a bit early….I have a history of eating the first round of treats I buy!)  I remember fun Halloweens when the kids were little.  Our little clown was scared of herself at first when she looked in the mirror! As soon as we took off her “clown hair” and showed her that it was still her under that wig the tears stopped and the fun began. “Painting” your child’s face while they watch in the mirror may help that…a lesson we learned!   I bought some healthier options like Halloween pretzels, raisins and Play-dough, but also stocked up on some chocolate (maybe quite a bit of chocolate).  Remember, everything in moderation is fine!

Halloween is an exciting night for most children, but we want it to be a safe night too.  Here are some tips to think about:

  • Think about using a glow stick, flameless candle, or flashlight in your Jack-O-Lantern.  A little ghost kicking over a candle lit pumpkin could be dangerous!
  • Keep your porch light on and be sure that your front porch is clear of any “tripping hazards”.  Falls are the most common injury on Halloween.
  • According to www.safekids.org only 1/3 of parents talk to their children about Halloween safety!  Every year we need to remind our children about basic safety…children, cars, costumes, candy, and dark can be a dangerous mix.
  • Adults, we need to be extra cautious and slow our driving down.  Children dart quickly when there is excitement and candy.  S-L-O-W is the name of the game when driving.
  • Our little ghosts, princesses, super heroes, and goblins need to have safe costumes.
    • Only about 18% of children have reflective tape on their costumes.  This is an easy way to make your child more visible and safe.
    • Costumes are safer when there is no mask.  Let your child’s cute face show with a little bit of Halloween make-up…a much better choice for safety.
    • Safe shoes and well-fitting costumes will keep your child from tripping and falling!  Costumes that are big and flowing can be a fire hazard with Jack-O-Lanterns and candles.
    • A Flashlight is fun at night and helps your child see and be seen.
  • Make sure that an adult is with your child until at least 12 years of age.  Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods that are familiar.  Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Teach your child to cross at the corners and look both ways.  Be sure cars have stopped before your child ventures into the street.  Stay on sidewalks when possible.
  • Check your child’s treats for choking hazards and to be sure that they are safe and wrapped.  Discourage your child from eating treats until you are home and the treats are checked.
  • Make sure your child knows not to enter a house unless you give them permission.
  • This is a great time to practice manners….a “thank you” after a treat is great practice!
  • Have a healthy dinner before going out.  Fill your child’s tummy with some nutritious food to balance the snacks later!
  • Relax…being a kid includes eating Halloween treats.  Teach the healthy view of moderation.  Allow a few treats over the next few days…those memories of treats, costumes, and after dark walks through the neighborhood are precious, make sure your child has some!  I miss my four little goblins!!  :)

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


Wake a sleeping baby to improve sleep…may not be so crazy!

Dr. Harvey Karp MD is another of my favorite sleep gurus.  Dr. Karp has written The Happiest Baby on the Block which many of you have read.   I teach his  technique to “flip the switch” for a crying baby because it works wonderfully!  His newest book, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep:  Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years,  is also full of valuable tips.  In this book, Dr. Karp wrote about a technique to help babies learn to go back to sleep on their own after waking.  This technique  may sound a little nutty, but it really does make sense when you think about it.

With my difficult sleeper #2 child, I tried everything.  I would nurse and rock her until her little arm was limp, lay her down in her crib ever so quietly, pat her for a moment and then (yes, I really did this) get down and crawl out of the room on my hands and knees  so she hopefully couldn’t see me if her little eyes suddenly fluttered back open.  I would do anything to keep her from stirring and waking so I would not have to start the process over again.  The truth was, she usually woke about 45 minutes later anyway and couldn’t put herself back to sleep.  Babies have very short sleep cycles, and as they cycle from deeper sleep to lighter sleep they often awake.  If your baby only knows how to go back to sleep with someone feeding, rocking, swinging, ( or any other soothing technique), it can become a frustrating and exhausting problem.

So what can a parent do?  There is nothing more precious than swaddling your baby, nursing or bottle feeding, rocking and then cuddling your sweet little one to sleep.  Many newborns can’t STAY awake when feeding and fall asleep every time you hold and feed.  So how can you teach your baby to self soothe and settle back to sleep when they awaken transitioning through sleep cycles?

Try this “wake-and-sleep” technique from Dr. Karp:

  • When you are ready to settle your baby, turn on a white noise.
  • Feed your baby with lots of rocking and cuddling.
  • Continue to rock and cuddle your swaddled baby after feeding until asleep.
  • As you put your baby into the crib swaddled and with the white noise going  THEN jiggle your little one just enough to wake him up just a bit.  (sounds crazy, right?)
  • Babies that have been fed well and snuggled to sleep are what we call a little “milk drunk”.  If your baby is sleeping well when you place him in the crib and then wakes slightly, most often his little eyes will open, kind of roll around a bit or look bleary eyed and then go right back to sleep.
  • If your baby does start to cry after you wake him slightly putting into the crib, hold him and pat him back to sleep and try the process again.

Sounds a little crazy to wake a sleeping baby….but this does make sense.  You are teaching your baby to self-soothe back to sleep in a very controlled way, without letting your very young baby “cry it out”.  Dr. Karp tells parents that after a few weeks of practice, your little one will become better at getting himself back to sleep after normal awakenings, as long as he is not hungry.  Hey…I say, if I crawled out of my daughter’s room army style…I think I would have tried this technique too, even if waking a sleeping baby sounds a little crazy.  Happy sleep!

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


It is time for the flu shot!

Get it on your calendar…everyone 6 months of age and older needs a flu shot!

It is the time of year when I start my daily reminders to parents ( I sometimes can be annoying, I guess)… it is time…time for that flu shot.  Put your excuses away, everyone 6 months and older should receive a flu shot, no ifs, ands, or buts!  It seems that there are always a lot of questions about the flu shot, and excuses why someone should not receive it.  Here are some of the most common questions I have heard…

  1. When should I receive it?

The time is now…it takes about 2 to 3 weeks for your body to build up antibodies for influenza.  Flu season can begin as early as October, but usually peaks in January and February and can last as long as May.

  1. Why should everyone get the flu vaccine?

The flu is a miserable illness.  Many people don’t realize how sick they can be if they get true influenza.  Healthy adults who get the flu are often unable to work, have a difficult time caring for families, and most importantly can spread the flu to others.  Those adults over 65 are at most risk for flu related deaths.  Depending on the year and the flu strain, sometimes the flu will affect children more seriously. The H1N1 outbreak demonstrated that a few years ago.  Pregnant women are also more at risk for complications from the flu.  Flu shots are safe during pregnancy, and it protects your unborn child and your baby after birth!  If you can keep yourself and your family from getting sick, then it is an easy decision!

  1. Why do we need a flu shot every year?

Flu viruses change…and flu shots change too.  Studies are conducted to try to predict what flu viruses will be most prevalent each year.  Our immune response after the flu shot or after actually having the flu decreases over time.  The flu shot serves as a boost to our immune system to help prevent the flu each year and it hopefully protect us from the “flu strain of the year”.

  1. Can I get the flu from the flu shot?

No!  The flu shot is either a weakened or dead virus…you CANNOT get the flu from the shot or the nasal spray.  Most side effects are very mild.

  1. Last year I got the shot, and our whole house still came down with vomiting and diarrhea!

The flu shot will not protect against other viruses other than influenza.  The influenza virus is a respiratory flu, not the stomach flu!

    6.  What is best…the mist or the shot?

After studies on effectiveness, it is recommended that children who have not indications NOT to have the mist, should receive the nasal flu vaccine as it has been shown to have a better immune response.  Sounds good to me….no child likes a shot! (or adult!)  The flu mist is safe for anyone who is between age 2 and 49, doesn’t have a history of wheezing, and is not allergic to eggs.

I will be on my soap box about flu shots for awhile…more facts to come…but it is time…get that flu shot for everyone that you love, it is important!  More good information on the CDC website.

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


What is on your fall bucket list?

Fall can be full of fun family activities…what is on your fall bucket list?  This was a Love family tradition….a hayride at the apple orchard!

Labor Day has passed, and that familiar feeling of “where did the summer go?” has come and gone.  Those autumn days are approaching and as much as I love summer, I love autumn too!  I like the change of seasons and autumn brings perfect opportunities for family togetherness and fun.  So, it is time to make the bucket list for the fall season.  What will you do to enjoy the upcoming autumn days?  What will you do to make memories with your child…every season brings new opportunities for enjoying the moment.  Here are a few things on my fall bucket list….share yours!

  1. A bonfire.  There is something about a blazing fire on a cool fall night complete with hotdogs and of course s’mores and hot chocolate.  This is a must at least once in the fall!  Keep your little one up past bedtime at least once to experience melted marshmallows and chocolate!
  2. A visit to the apple orchard.  Picking apples is a Love family tradition.  A trip to Stuckey Farm was always a highlight.  Kids love to learn where their food comes from and actually picking apples is a thrill.  No apple orchard trip is complete without a cup of cider and maybe a caramel apple!
  3. A fall hike.  I love to head out for a hike through falling leaves when the air is cool and crisp.  What a great way to let your child experience the wonders of nature when the leaves are beautiful shades of color.  Our hikes always ended with taking home favorite leaves and ironing them between wax paper for a place mat that week.  Create a fall craft with bits of the outdoors with your child!  Remember “Outdoors everyday!”
  4. Attend a fall festival.  There certainly are an abundance of festivals during the fall.  I love going through the booths looking for treasures and maybe sampling some of the “festival food” that is there.  Many of the festivals have children’s activities too.  Check out Indiana’s festival website: http://www.in.gov/visitindiana/files/2014_Indiana_Festival_Guide.pdf
  5. Plant some fall mums.  I love to switch out my tired summer flowers to some bright colored mums.  A few mum, gourds, and pumpkins and my home is ready for the change of season!  Let your kids pick out the funniest looking gourd and help decorate!
  6. Plant some spring bulbs.  What a great way to look forward to spring color.  Let your child help you plant a few bulbs and then remember to watch for them next spring!  Take a picture of you planting them together and then another when they bloom.  When that first bulb pokes its head up in the spring…everyone is excited!
  7. Pick out a pumpkin and carve it.  I still love to pick out the perfect pumpkin.  It must be big, fairly round and have a big fat stem!  Find the perfect one together and then let everyone join in the fun of getting a little messy cleaning out the seeds!  Make a happy Jack-o-lantern (or if you prefer scary, we always had to have 2, one happy one scary!) and light up the night.
  8. Rake leaves and jump in them.  I can remember our first home didn’t have many trees…we backed up to 3 other houses with children.  One Saturday we all raked the few leaves we had together and made a pile for the neighborhood kids to enjoy.  A pile of leaves and kids always results in fun.  I have to rake leaves in our home now…and if I have to rake, I will jump in them whether I have kids here or not! :)
  9. Bake something pumpkin.  There is nothing better than the smell of pumpkin and spice in the house on a cool day.  Remember, baking and kids go together.  Love this recipe!  http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/10/moist-pumpkin-spice-muffins-with-cream-cheese-frosting/
  10. Go for a fall Sunday drive.  I love to take a leisurely driving tour of the fall colors, and it is even better if we stop for ice cream!  (it seems a lot of my bucket list revolves around food! :))
  11. Go to a Friday night football game.  We no longer have a high school son playing football (which means I no longer cringe quite as much when I see the receiver get hit!), but there is just something about a crisp Friday night supporting the local team.  If you can’t afford to head to a Colt’s game, or even if you can, a great affordable way to introduce your kids to the Friday night football experience is to head to your local high school and cheer on the team.  It is a great date night too!
  12. Hot cider on the back porch.  I love to heat the cider up from the apple orchard and sip it on my back porch on a cool fall afternoon.  Pick a day when your little one is napping and ignore your “to do list” and take a little breather for you.

So that is my Fall Bucket List…not real difficult, just simple fun.  Don’t let this season slip away without enjoying it.  Every season, every day, every moment is fleeting.  Give your child the gift of enjoying the moment you are in…so find yourself a leaf pile and jump in!

Share your fall bucket list!

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


Squeeze pouches…are they a good option for picky toddlers?

squeeze pouch

Are fruits and vegetables from a pouch the best idea for your toddler?

There are several baby items that I wish were around when my four kids were young.  One of the “convenience” items I see so many parents using are the fruit and vegetable “squeeze pouches”.  Ingenious and convenient!  Squeeze the pouch onto a spoon (you can even get spoons that fit on the end to squeeze the mixture onto…so smart!) and you have a meal on the go for your baby.  Baby is the key word…..

The other day I was in Target and I saw a child who was at least 2 if not closer to 3 happily eating his “squeeze” meal with another box of them in the cart for later.  Many parents are using these squeeze pouches as meals and snacks because their picky eater toddler will not eat fruits and vegetables.  Is there anything wrong with this?  Many of these packets are high in sugar, and since they are “fun” and easy to eat, many children can suck down several of these packets a day.  Often these calories are not even considered when a parent looks at what a child eats during the day.  The way these pouches are “eaten” is much like drinking a juice pouch, the contents are “sucked” coating the teeth which I would imagine would not be good for dental health.

The biggest concern I have with children continuing to “eat” these pouches as part of their everyday diet is that those children miss out on knowing what a “real” fruit or vegetable truly looks like, tastes like, or feels like in their mouth.  It is so much better to eat an apple than to “eat” a pouch that mixes applesauce and peas together!  Toddlers need to learn to eat and chew solid foods with texture!  Toddlers need to know what a healthy diet looks like!  Parents often worry too much about forcing toddlers to eat vegetables, it is much more effective to offer healthy foods and allow toddlers to “experiment”.  Some days your toddler will love his green beans or spinach, and some days he will shut his mouth and refuse.  A pouch of pureed “spinach” mixed with plums may make Mom or Dad feel better, but results in a toddler missing out on the real taste, texture and experience of real food.  If a child is continually given healthy options and Mom and Dad set good examples, eventually a toddler will give it a try!  (don’t forget a serving size for a toddler is about a tablespoon per year!  A serving of those peas is just a few tablespoons for a 2 or 3 year old!)

So, these new pouches are great for infants….so convenient, some are even organic; but in my opinion they can be a hindrance in teaching your toddler what healthy food really is.  Real food trumps convenience.  What do you think?

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


Starting solid foods….there really is not a lot of rules!

baby solid foods

Starting solid foods can be stressful…so it seems.  So many of my conversations with parents who are starting foods, thinking about starting foods, or in the middle of food introduction are full of anxiety and questions.  It really should not be.  There are very few guidelines that parents really need to follow.  Many of the “rules” of starting solid foods are not based on lot of science, but are based on culture and “what grandma did”.  So what is all the worry about??  What are the “rules”?

Let’s keep it simple.

1.  Children should start solid pureed foods when they are developmentally ready for food, usually near the 6 month mark.  Usually at this age healthy children who are developing normally should be showing some interest in foods, sitting up fairly well, and their tongue thrust should be minimal.

2.  First foods are really “practice foods”.  Your baby is trying out new tastes and textures, but their main nutrition should be coming from breast milk or formula.  Solid foods are complimentary the first year.

3.  Pureed foods do not have to be the traditional baby foods…give your baby new and interesting tastes!  There really is no scientific base to withholding any foods, even foods that are traditionally high allergen foods like eggs and peanut butter.  The only food your child should NOT have is honey in the first year.  Introduce new foods every few days and enjoy.

That is really it!  So there really is no need for a schedule, a flow chart or an excel sheet to introduce your child to foods.  Honest…

Even with these simple “rules” there are lots of questions.  Here are some of the most common questions/worries that I hear:

1.   Should I start with rice cereal first? 

Traditionally rice cereal has been the first food for babies in this country…for years!  Why?  Well, it is convenient, it is easy to mix and feed, and it is iron fortified.  Iron stores from Mom may begin to deplete after the first 6 months, so foods with iron are often started first.  There is a lot of debate about white rice cereal, but rice cereal does not HAVE to be first.  There is certainly other whole grain cereals with iron fortification and there is no reason why a baby can’t have pureed meats at 6 months too.  I think we should look at other foods besides rice for a first food.

2.  Should I start with green vegetables first, then yellow, and then fruit?

Don’t have to……there is no evidence that shows if you give your baby green vegetables first he will like vegetables any better or like sweet things less.  No matter what order you introduce foods, all children (adults too) will like the taste of sweet better.  Besides, if you breast feed, your baby has already tasted sweet…your breast milk.  Don’t worry about what color vegetable or what fruit you should introduce when, just offer your baby a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.  You can introduce carrots one day, applesauce a few days later, and then peas…the order doesn’t matter.

3.  Is it healthier to make my baby’s food?  Does it have to be organic?

Many parents worry about the fact that they don’t have time to add baby food making to their “to do” list, but it seems that everyone is telling them that “good parents” provide homemade organic baby food.  Like parenting issues in general, there is always different options for different families.   There certainly are many ways a parent can provide healthy food for their child.  Some parents buy only organic, local food and have special recipes for homemade baby food, some parents shop aisle 2 and pick up whatever food is in stage 1, and other parents go half and half; making some food and buying some. The truth is, your child will not be on pureed foods very long.  I think the sooner your child begins to eat what you are fixing the rest of the family, the better.  Children like foods that have normal seasonings and a wide variety of tastes. Try to make at least some baby food…that means add a little water and take a fork and mash or use a blender to puree food for your baby, it is that simple.  Soon your baby will be eating what you do with just a little mashing.

Organic foods have not been proven to provide better nutrition, but the foods do decrease exposure to pesticides.  If your budget doesn’t allow the purchase of organic foods, it is more important to provide a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you want to spend a few dollars on organics….stick with the “dirty dozen”.

4.  You want my baby to eat what I do?

If you are having green beans for dinner…then mash or puree some for your baby.  If you are eating fast food…then no!  If you think your child can’t have what you normally eat, then think about what you normally eat.  I find a lot of parents begin to eat much more healthy when they have a child beginning to eat solid foods.  Remember, the best way to teach healthy eating is being a good role model.

5.  Can’t I start food a little earlier….I need some sleep at night and wouldn’t that help my baby sleep better?

Food does not help a baby sleep at night better….nothing in research has ever shown us this.  Starting solids too early may result in an increase risk of obesity or maybe even a tummy ache because your baby is not able to digest the food well yet.  Starting solid foods is a developmental milestone not a way to “tank up” your baby for sleep.  Early food introduction will not increase your sleep…

6.   Babies can’t eat eggs or peanut butter can they?

The only thing a healthy baby who is not in a family with many food allergies or intolerances can’t have is honey.  That is it!  Babies under a year are at risk for botulism when eating honey, but nothing else that is healthy is off-limits.  There is no waiting for yogurt, eggs, meats, cheeses, fish….nothing….if it is not a choking hazard, then let your baby try it.

Let go of the anxiety….starting foods should be fun and exciting for you and your baby.  Offer new tastes, new textures, and healthy food.  Soon you will see that your child just might LIKE brussel sprouts….even though you never did!  Let your child try it all….and maybe your diet will improve too.

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



Don’t Panic about the EV-D68 Virus….But Wash Those Hands!

wash hands

This is the best way to prevent the enterovirus EV-D68 or ANY illness!


We in the Midwest are hearing about an outbreak of an illness that is hitting children hard. Many children have been hospitalized with respiratory symptoms from this enterovirus EV-D68. This group of viruses can cause many different illnesses, but this particular strain is not very common and has many parents worried.  It is hard NOT to be worried when the news is sending out the alarm!  Remember, fear does nothing….but there are some things we can do to protect our children from any illness.

Any age group can be affected by this group of viruses, and most people infected will experience mild cold like symptoms. This specific type of enterovirus has been most severe in children with a history of asthma or past wheezing. There is no medicine or shot to cure or prevent the virus. Children will need supportive care for the symptoms. Children who are wheezing, very ill, or have any difficulty breathing should see their health care provider. Children with asthma must follow their asthma action plans and contact their doctors if they are in yellow or red zones on their plan.

Just like other common viral illnesses, this enterovirus is spread by close contact with an ill person. Good hand washing and wiping down commonly touched objects or surfaces is important. To prevent any illness we all should remember to:

  • Wash our hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after using the rest room or changing diapers
  • Avoid touching our eyes, nose, and mouth with dirty hands
  • Clean frequently touched things like toys, doorknobs, light switches and bathrooms
  • Avoid hugging, kissing, and sharing cups with people who are ill
  • Stay home and keep your children home when sick
  • Don’t forget to get your yearly flu vaccine…it will not prevent this illness but it will help prevent the upcoming influenza virus!

There is no need to panic as parents! Good common sense and preventive measures will help stop the spread of any illness. Contact your child’s doctor if you have any questions. Most importantly….get the soap out and wash those hands!

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








Tell the people you love, “You rock!”

Don’t just tell your kids they “rock”…tell them why!

A little “Throw back Thursday”…..a post that helps us to remember to tell those we love the most why we do!  Happy Thursday!

I was getting ready to mail a card to my college aged kids the other day.  I try to send a “snail mail” card every couple of weeks.  I have a lot of contact with my college kids by texting and cell phones, but there is something about that written piece of mail in a mailbox that I think kids still love.  The cards I send usually are “miss you” or “hang in there” or just “love you” with a little bit of news and maybe a few dollars just because.  As I was writing a quick note on one of the cards I had purchased, I read it again.  It was simply “you rock”.  Nice thought…because my kids do rock…but the more I thought about it, I realized that I often tell them how proud I am, or that I love them, or that they are great but I don’t often tell them what specifically makes them so wonderful!   I then wrote why my daughter “rocked”; the things that were special and unique about her that I loved.  I received a text later thanking me for the card and saying it would be one she would “save forever.” (Not even a mention of the money!) :)

How often do we give our kids and other special people in our lives compliments, but have no specifics, just words?  Studies show us that compliments that specifically tell our children what they are doing is right or what is special about them helps them build high self-esteem.  It is nice to hear that you are a good kid, but better to hear why.  I thought about myself, it is great when I hear “I love you” but better when someone tells me what about me they love.

So, I challenge all of us this next week to take a moment and write or say why those special people in our lives are so great.  What makes you proud of them?  Why is your child or spouse so special?  What are some of your favorite qualities in your loved ones?  Let’s look at our partners and kids this next week and truly tell them why “they rock!”

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


Raising an unspoiled child…how to strike that parenting balance


A spoiled child grows into an adult who feels entitled…how do you strike the balance between wants and needs as a parent?

It is so difficult to see your child upset, disappointed, or wanting something that you don’t feel is necessary or maybe can’t afford. There were many days when I questioned whether we should break down and buy an item that one of our kids “just HAD to have”, fold and give that cookie before dinner to keep the peace, or rescue a child from the consequence of a behavior because their tears broke my heart. There were days that I did…but I know that the lessons the kids learned when I did NOT were much more valuable.

When you bring home your precious baby, that first year there is very little difference between your child’s wants and needs. Everything your child wants IS a need. Your sweet baby communicates those needs loudly and clearly resulting in you feeding, holding, rocking, changing, and responding. As a parent, your quick response to those needs lets your child learn that he is loved and safe. Very important lessons!

Fast forward to a 3-year-old laying on the floor at the grocery store check-out line screaming for a package of M & Ms at 9:00 am. Does he need them? No, but he sure wants them! Is the behavior annoying, do you want to make it go away quickly? Yes, but purchasing the candy may not be the best lesson for your child!

What exactly is spoiling?

As parents we must teach our children how to navigate the world even when there is frustration or disappointment. Think no M&Ms at 9:00 am, not getting your attention when you are speaking with another adult, having to save money to buy those designer jeans, and dealing with sitting the bench during a basketball game. Our children must learn that when disappointment in life happens, when they must wait for something they want, or the world doesn’t revolve around their desires, that life doesn’t crash down around them and that they are still loved. Your child must learn that in life you must work hard, be patient, and “play nicely” to be happy and successful. Being loved does not mean there are no bumps in the road, being loved means you are taught how to navigate them.

Spoiling means your child will learn that they are entitled to things. This entitlement replaces the idea of hard work and patience to get or achieve things. Children who are spoiled often do not learn the difference between wants and needs. Spoiling is never due to giving your child the things he or she needs, the opposite is true. When your child has what they need, good behavior patterns can follow. Children need loving physical contact, soothing when upset, structure, routine, positive words, food, clothing, shelter, medical care, toys, …basics…these basics bring an emotionally solid foundation and feeling of security. How do you prevent the “spoiled brat” that none of us want to raise? How do you strike the balance as a parent? Of course there are times will give our children things they simply want; there is nothing better than seeing the excitement of getting something that is special Of course we are going to fold and stop the “madness” in the grocery store and give in to the M&Ms occasionally. Of course we will respond to the whining….but how do we strike the balance??

  1. Don’t buy things your child wants constantly.  Gifts are important parts of childhood…the holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions are wonderful, exciting times for your child. Receiving a gift every time you walk through Target and see the latest toy is not the best parenting choice. This results in a child who no longer appreciates but expects.
  2. Delay gratification.  Help your child develop patience. It is fine to tell your child “I will help in a minute when I finish this.” “That new Barbie is very nice, let’s write it down on your birthday wish list.” This will help your child learn that his world will not collapse when he does not get what he wants NOW. Delayed gratification teaches the difference between wants and needs and that others have needs too.
  3. Develop strong values and morals as a family, give together.   Raising an unspoiled child is not just about saying “no” to things, it is about developing a value based home. A home that has kindness, generosity, gratitude, hard work, and feelings as its core.  Teach what it feels like to make someone else happy. Point out when your child is kind.  Start talking about gratitude. Share what you are thankful for each day. A great time is during family dinners or right before bed. Ask your child to share 3 things each day he is thankful for….you share too!  Share as a family, donate used toys your child no longer needs, participate as a family in donations to charities…be sure your child is included! This is a great way to teach your child about the joy of giving and appreciation for what he has. There is happiness in appreciation; there is misery in concentrating on what you don’t have.
  4. Watch how much screen time your child has. Advertising knows how to send the message to your child on what he “needs”!
  5. Spoiling is not just too many things, it is an attitude too.  Don’t give into temper tantrums, this teaches that those actions result in “getting what I want”.  Have consistent consequences for unacceptable behavior; try not to fold because it is easier. Parenting is hard work!
  6. Let natural consequences of life happen for your child…bumps in the road happen, learning to handle that is essential.
  7. Give your child praise, but praise for specific behaviors or accomplishments. Constant blanket praising results in a child who feels the world owes him this. Let your child learn that positive actions feel good INTERNALLY!
  8. Give your child chores and responsibility. In the real world, we are all responsible for something. This fosters a good work ethic too.
  9. Remember, giving your child things does not replace your child’s need for your time.
  10. Live the values you teach. Your child learns what he sees. Does your child see you buying the newest and the best? Do you show your child that you often sacrifice and delay gratification? Talk to your child about what you want, but demonstrate that you might not need it!

Fostering an environment that doesn’t result in a child who feels entitled is not always easy. There will be times when your child may be unhappy, angry, or even throw a fit, but it is only for a brief time. Giving in affects behavior for the long-term. I am not telling you to make your child’s life difficult. There are certainly times that we will and should indulge our child. But remember, a spoiled child learns that behavior, it is a result of parenting. You cannot love your child too much…but sometimes loving your child means your child will not get everything he wants!

Wow…not sure this was a blog my son wanted me to think about before his “back to college” shopping this week…hmmm what does he NEED? :)

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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