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

Choosing a sunscreen for your child

Choose the right sunscreen protection for your child…and enjoy the summer!

The sun is shining…it is going to be a great day!  Whatever your plans are they must include some sunscreen.  If you are a bit confused about which one is best for you and your little one, then join the club!  Walking through a sunscreen aisle at the store can be very overwhelming.  We have SPF numbers, lotions, sticks, sprays, natural, baby sunscreen, discount brands, expensive brands, dry touch, waterproof, water-resistant, and the list goes on.  Reading labels and comparing sunscreens feels like a parent should have a doctorate in chemistry.  The new labeling makes it a bit easier to figure out, but there is still room for lots of confusion.  So begins another spring/summer of walking the aisles of Target wondering which sunscreen is the best! Is it easier just to keep your child inside?  Definitely not!  Here are a few tips that may help your sunscreen decisions.

Sun safety tips:

Babies under 6 months

  • As much as possible babies this age should avoid sun exposure.  Dress your baby in lightweight long pants, sleeves and brimmed hats that shade the neck.  When you are not able to cover your baby completely and keep him or her in the shade, then you can apply a small amount of sunscreen to exposed areas.  It is better to use sunscreen than for your baby to get a burn!!
  • Be aware of reflection of the sun off water and other objects.  The best time of day for an infant is when the sun is not at its highest intensity.  Try to stay out of direct sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Older Children

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside if you are using a chemical block.  Use sunscreen everyday as part of your routine.  Look for sunscreen of at least 30 SPF that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Make sure you are using enough sunscreen–about 1 ounce or a shot glass full!
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.  Even waterproof sunscreens need to be reapplied after swimming and towel drying.  Sunscreen sticks work well for under eyes and those hard to apply areas such as ears, and noses.
  • The best defense is covering up, use hats, sunglasses, and cotton clothing for your children.
  •  Try to be shaded as much as possible and remember that the peak hours of sun are between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Sunscreen labels

  • New labeling regulations are in effect this summer for sunscreen manufacturers.
  • Just because a sunscreen is labeled for kids or babies does not mean that it is the best for your child.  The ingredients make the difference!
  • The label must say broad spectrum or protects against UVA and UVB rays.  Both types of rays cause skin damage.
  • SPF numbers can be misleading.  SPF higher than 30 does not provide much more protection, and there are sunscreens with a high SPF that do not provide broad spectrum coverage.  You must have both.
  • Try to stay clear of vitamin A.  There has been some research that vitamin A listed as retinyl palmitate on labels, can cause more skin damage when the skin is exposed to sunlight.  (doesn’t make sense to put it in sunscreen!)  Vitamin A is the darling of cosmetic companies right now, with claims of anti aging.  Vitamin A in vegetables is great…not so great in sunscreen.
  • Look for sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide.  These are mineral based sunscreens.  They are effective immediately and are not readily absorbed by your child’s skin.  They are more of a physical barrier to the sun, not a chemical barrier.  Avobenzone is a common chemical used in sunscreen.  It takes 20 to 30 minutes for it to be effective.  There has been no real definitive research that proves it is harmful, but zinc and titanium oxide both have been shown to be easy on sensitive skin and there are no chemicals that are absorbed. Sometimes these ingredients will make the sunscreen thicker and whiter on the skin.
  • Do not buy sunscreen with insect repellent!
  • Buy a cream or lotion rather than a spray.  There is concern about your child breathing in the small particles in the sunscreen spray and studies show us that parents do not apply enough sunscreen with a spray.  Remember, we need at least an ounce of sunscreen for good coverage.
  • Do your homework The Environmental Working Group reviews sunscreens each year.  Take a look at the best sunscreens of 2015  http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/and then make your decision.

So make some plans for the wonderful weather. We have been waiting for this!  Head outdoors with your child and have some fun!  But first, take a shopping trip today and find some sun protection for yourself and your child.  Purchase that all important sunscreen….and maybe a cute pair of sandals for 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.


Cars and Planes….Entertaining Your Kids for Happy Travels!

family vacation

So, you have your vacation booked, you are packed, and now you are thinking about how you will entertain your child in the car or on the plane! 

Long trips are even longer when you have children who are fussy and bored!  We traveled to the beach each year by car, and took the occasional flight when our children were young.  I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to keep everyone content (at least mostly content) on the way.  Early on we learned that the trip to and from our destination had to become part of the “vacation”.  In other words, we had to have that vacation mentality and enjoy that part of the trip too!  You can have fun driving with a carload of kids I promise!

Traveling by car allows you to see some great areas that you may not experience if in a hurry.  During our yearly trip to the beach we found small towns, festivals, touristy attractions, and great parks for picnics.  We soon learned that getting out of the car and enjoying the trip made it much more fun for everyone.  Lunch is much better in a park where everyone can run and play than sitting quietly in a restaurant!  Leaving early in the morning and stopping early in the late afternoon allowed the kids to play, swim, and become familiar with the hotel we were sleeping in that night.  We learned the hard way that pulling into a hotel after a long day of driving at bedtime only resulted in crying children and frustrated parents.  An early stop always resulted in kids settling in for the night easier and an earlier start the next morning.

Entertaining kids on a flight or in the car sometimes takes some creativity.  A mixture of new toys and old favorites usually works.  Some toys were “special” vacation toys that were only used on long trips.  We didn’t have the DVD players so common now, but our kids were very excited about the special travel toys we kept just for our long trips.  You might think about using your DVD player for that purpose.

Here are a few ideas that may work for you.  I found packing the toys in a bag and getting them out one at a time as needed worked well.  Sometimes even wrapping the new ones made it so much fun to unwrap and see the new surprise toy!  A trip to the dollar store or the Target Dollar Aisle is a great place to pick up some of those new items.

  1.  Travel sized magnetic games.
  2. Travel sized Magna Doodle or Aqua Doodle.
  3. Sticker Books
  4. Activity Books
  5. Crayons and markers (remember to bring the crayons out of the car if it is warm weather…trust me they can melt and make a mess!)
  6. Reusable stickers or “clings” that can be put on car or plane windows.
  7. Wikki Stix or pipe cleaners
  8. Painter’s tape (makes great “roads” on tray tables, fun to tear and stick, easy to remove, great for childproofing in hotel rooms!)
  9. Finger puppets
  10. New books and favorite books
  11. Favorite music
  12. Movies
  13. Bubbles (fun to blow in the car!)
  14. Small cars, favorite dolls, stuffed animals
  15. Cookie sheet with magnets

Treat bags became a vacation tradition with our kids.  We always packed a few snacks, some healthy and some special treats.  To this day, I pack a “treat bag” even for my husband and me when we head out on a road trip!  Slow down, stop, let your child out to run and then provide a quiet activity once back in the car seat or on the plane.  Take a deep breath and enjoy having your family contained in one spot…something that, believe it or not, you will look forward to when your children are a bit older and busier.  Talk, sing, snack, and maybe even nap on the way (not the driver of course!!) :)…Family vacations are simply time together, time together doing something different….so be sure that your vacation begins when you leave your house.  The trip to and from your vacation CAN be fun too! What do you bring to make your travels more fun?  Share your ideas!!!

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


Packing tips for traveling with kids…having what you need but keeping it simple.

Vacation season is here! With kids, gone are the days when you can throw a few things in a suitcase and go!  There is a bit more to pack with kids…it seems like you will need everything!  Making a packing list will help.  I often would start a packing list several weeks in advance and as I thought of things we would need, I would add it to the list.  Packing can feel overwhelming when you are planning for kids.  Just remember, you can usually always wash at your destination if necessary and unless you are going to the outback, there are stores!  Don’t try to think of every scenario and try to pack for it!  Once you have a list that works for you, save it on your computer for the future!  Try and keep it simple!

Packing Tips:

  • Plan for one outfit a day per person.  Think about mixing and matching and bringing a couple extra tops.
  • Think layers…be sure you always have something warm…weather is temperamental and restaurants are cool.
  • Plan for at least 3 pairs of PJs per child.  You will always have accidents and need at least one extra pair until you can wash.
  • Pack total outfits in large freezer type zip lock bags.  Top, bottom, undershirt, and socks all together.  This makes it easy to find each outfit and helps keep things organized.  You can grab a zip lock bag and throw it in your diaper bag when you are on the run and know you have everything you need for a quick change.
  • Extra shoes.
  • Sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses.
  • Plan a diaper an hour for transit and about 5 to 6 diapers a day.  Remember, there are Wal-Mart Stores and Target Stores everywhere…don’t bring things that are easier bought at your destination.  Think about having Amazon or Target ship your diapers to your destination when taking a long trip.  www.jetsetbabies.com or www.babytravelite.com are another great way to ship baby gear ahead!
  • Bring several receiving type blankets and a larger blanket for your baby to lie on and stretch.
  • Diaper rash ointment, acetaminophen, thermometer, small containers of shampoo and lotion.  You never want to be out looking for an open pharmacy at night!
  • Keep a list with emergency numbers in your bag.  Include your doctor’s phone number and local pharmacy number.
  • Pack a night-light.   It is nice to have a little light in a strange room!
  • Baby Monitor.
  • Child proofing kit.  This would include twist ties to tie up cords, duct tape to tape over outlets, and antibacterial wipes to wipe down TV remotes and phones.  Blue painters tape is a great way to tape things up, cover outlets etc. and kids LOVE to play with it too.  Easy to remove from anything also!
  • Straw cups, pacifiers, bottles, and enough baby food for transit and to get you started at your destination.
  • If traveling by car and you will be spending a night on the road, pack a separate bag for the hotel.  Only pack what you will need for the one night on your way to your destination.  This is much easier than carrying all of the luggage in for a one night stay!

Pack a small backpack with essentials that are within easy reach in the car or plane:

  • A change of clothing for you and your child.
  • Extra zip lock bags.  (Never can have too many!)
  • A diaper an hour and wipes.  (Never can have too many wipes!  They are NOT for just diaper changes!)
  • Pack an extra “portable” bag with a single diaper, diaper cream, and small package of wipes.  You can take this small bag into the restroom without bringing the whole diaper bag or backpack.
  • Fold up potty seat for a toddler. Post it notes to cover the electronic eye on self flushing toilets…keeps the toilet from flushing and scaring your toddler!
  • Extra “lovey”…always have an extra!
  • Two straw cups (one to be dirty one to be clean), snack cup, wipeable bib, portable snacks, small fork and spoon, any other necessary restaurant item.
  • If you are formula feeding, bring powdered formula.  Make up a couple of bottles with the powdered formula so only water needs to be added.
  • Baby food for use that day.
  • Zip lock with thermometer, travel sized acetaminophen, ibuprofen, band aids, Benadryl, nasal saline drops, and any other medications your child or you are taking.
  • A mix of new and old toys…plan for an activity per hour at least.  A sample “fun bag” will be posted later.

So, pack smart and start early.  Make a list and check it twice, but remember, the only real essentials are items that cannot be bought at your destination…so relax, if you forget something, thank goodness for Target and Walmart….I know you can find either at your destination!

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


This wasn’t how it was supposed to be….

I feel like we need to talk about this topic at least every 6 months….and what a better time than right before Mother’s Day! So, I am posting this again so we all will be reminded that taking care of ourselves is a must in order to be good Moms.  Sometimes we don’t feel wonderful and full of bliss after our baby is born.  Those first few weeks and months are difficult!  The lack of sleep alone can play havoc with a new Mom’s emotions. New Moms…take care of yourselves, and if you don’t feel like yourself or others tell you that you are not like yourself, ask for the help you need.

You have waited 9 long months for this.  You survived the back aches, the weight gain, the heart burn, and the cravings. You went to prenatal classes, read books, watched the “Baby Channel” on cable for hours and the nursery is perfect.  Everyone is thrilled…everyone is happy…everyone but you.  You feel alone, guilty, not yourself.  You try to “pull yourself out of this funk”; but you just can’t shake the feelings.  Why?

Today I want to talk  about just those often unspoken feelings of postpartum depression.  Nearly 80 percent of new moms have the “baby blues”.  Hormone changes after birth can cause many to have some mood swings, tears, feelings of being overwhelmed in the first couple of weeks after delivery.  Overall, a mom who has the “blues” still describes herself as generally happy.  Postpartum depression is different.

At least 20 percent of moms experience some degree of postpartum depression.  That is 1 out of every 8 moms!  There are probably more but because of guilt, many moms never seek help. I am sure someone you know has experienced this.   It is the most common pregnancy complication!  Postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorder can occur anytime during pregnancy and the first full year after your baby is born.

Some Signs and Symptoms:

  • frequent crying
  • sleep and appetite changes
  • feelings of loneliness, helplessness
  • mood swings
  • repetitive, sometimes scary thoughts
  • anger, frustration, irritability
  • difficulty bonding with baby
  • anxiety, panic, excessive worry
  • feelings of being trapped
  • lack of interest in life, fatigue, exhaustion
  • feeling speeded up or wired
  • fear of being alone with the baby

If you are feeling some of these signs and symptoms…or if people close to you are telling you that you are just not yourself.  Please talk with your doctor.  Seek the help you need to feel better.  The good news is that you will get better, treatment works, you will be yourself again.

All new moms can do a few things to help themselves feel better.

  • Sleep.  Sleep deprivation can result in depression, and we all know that a newborn doesn’t sleep as much as we thought!  We are not used to waking every 2 hours at night!  Try to nap when the baby does.  Ask someone to stay with the baby while you sleep.  Listen to your body and rest.
  • Eat healthy and remember to eat!  A new mom can’t survive on a handful of cookies, and believe me often that is all you have time to eat!  Keep healthy food in your house and accept those meals that are being offered!
  • Exercise.  Just a walk 3 to 4 times a week increases those “feel good” hormones.  It is good for you and good for your baby to get out in the fresh air, even in the winter.
  • Natural light, find the sun!  Sunlight is a mood booster.  Stand in front of a window whenever the sun is shining and get light on your eyes.
  • Get out of the house.  Even a trip to the grocery store is a trip out!  Wow, the definition of going out really changes after kids!
  • Ask for help.  Being a new mom is lots of work.  You do not have to be super mom!  You can’t do it alone.  Remember, being a mom is not like what you see on TV!
  • Find other new moms.  Look for support groups, MOPS groups, church groups, wherever there are other moms…being around other moms is essential.  We all need to stick together!

Remember…ask for help.

You are not alone, you are not to blame, and with treatment you will get better and be yourself again….I promise.

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


Helpful websites:








Did Kate Middleton just make you question yourself?


 Photo credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty

So much talk this week about the new princess and the royal family. How did Kate get a pair of panty hose and heels on and have perfect makeup and hair after delivering mere hours before? I am sure it took “a village”. The fact is, sweats and a pony tail does not define a good mother and neither does perfectly coiffed hair. None of us should compare ourselves with Kate…or the Mom we are following on Pinterst…or our neighbor down the street. The only judge of our Motherhood comes from our children. If your children feel loved unconditionally, feel safe, have boundaries set with love, are allowed to experience their world, and are rooted in their family’s moral values…then you are mothering wonderfully…no matter your hair and makeup! All the talk about how amazing Kate looked missed one important point, all mothers have joys and challenges. All mothers have worries and sleepless nights. All mothers have hopes and dreams for their children. Kate Middleton, and each of us share the gift of motherhood and all that comes with it…whether we have a household of servants or not. Let’s not concentrate on comparisons, but concentrate on supporting each other. Each of us will have a different journey in motherhood. Some will have babies who sleep through the night at 8 weeks, some will have children with sleep challenges, some of us will have star students, some of us will have star athletes, some of us will have strong-willed children and some will have slow to warm children. Some of us will wear yoga pants and our hair in a pony tail and some of us will have our nails manicured and will always wear makeup…but all mothers’ hearts beat the same. We all have the same love and desires for our children; so instead of comparing ourselves with each other and feeling superior or inadequate, let’s make a concerted effort to look past the unimportant pieces of being a Mom and support each other in the all important pieces of being a Mom. Love to all Moms this Mother’s Day Week!

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


Tylenol or acetaminophen with vaccines…should you or shouldn’t you?

Think twice before giving your child Tylenol or acetaminophen BEFORE their shots!

When my kids were little, a dose of Tylenol or acetaminophen (generic Tylenol) was just routine either immediately before a vaccine or immediately after.  I hated to see my baby fussy and feverish after a vaccine, so I was armed with Tylenol before every shot.   I often gave that advice to parents of children receiving routine vaccines too.  Acetaminophen is a great choice for kids who are not feeling well and are uncomfortable during an illness with fever or are experiencing pain from teething or ear infections. It turns out that it might not be a good choice for kids routinely before or after vaccines.  A  study published in 2009  tells us that preventing the fever that often happens with vaccines may also prevent  some of the immune response of your child.  Fever is a body’s reaction to a virus or bacteria and a fever after vaccines shows that the vaccine is working!  That vaccine has sent a message to your child’s body to build immunity to that disease; so we don’t want to stop that immune response with acetaminophen or Tylenol.

Easier said than done, right?  It is hard for a parent to see their child uncomfortable after a vaccine and fever causes anxiety in many parents.  However, after reading the results of the study, it might be easier for parents to skip that Tylenol!  The study published in The Lancet had these results:

  • High fevers were uncommon in infants after vaccines.  Less than 1% had a fever over 103.
  • Low-grade fevers or temperatures around 100 were very common.  42% of babies that received Tylenol and 66% of babies who did not have Tylenol developed a low-grade fever.
  • Babies who were given Tylenol had a lower immune response to the vaccine.  The study found lower concentrations of antibodies in those babies that had received Tylenol routinely.

Remember, a fever is a body’s natural response to a vaccine…we want your child to develop antibodies to the disease we are trying to prevent with the vaccine.  The fever shows us the vaccine is working!  We don’t want to use a medicine that might prevent the vaccine from doing its job!  So, my advice is:

  • Don’t give Tylenol or acetaminophen before your child receives vaccines.  This may decrease your child’s immune response.  A low-grade fever is a normal response to a vaccine.
  • Give Tylenol or acetaminophen only if your child is very fussy, seems uncomfortable or has a fever of 101 or higher after a vaccine.  Mom and Dad, you know your child best…you can tell if they are not feeling well after a vaccine!
  • Fever causes fear for many parents, I hated fevers in my kids too!  Have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician about ways to make your child comfortable after vaccines and what his or her recommendation is for treating fever after a vaccine.

If you have given Tylenol routinely for your child’s shots, as I did, don’t worry!  This study did not prove that these babies did not develop immunity to the disease and were unprotected, it only showed that Tylenol or acetaminophen resulted in a decreased immune response.  After learning this, my advice is:  let your child’s body do its job…wait on the Tylenol and comfort your baby with lots of snuggles and TLC those first 24 to 48 hours after shots.  Give the Tylenol or acetaminophen only when necessary.

As with many parenting tips, things change as we learn new information.  Changing recommendations doesn’t mean we had been doing anything wrong in the past; we are now just doing things more correctly based on new information.  So, think twice before you reach for the acetaminophen or Tylenol routinely before or after shots…use it only when really needed!

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


Help take the “ouch” out of vaccines

Shots are not fun for you or your child…here are some tips to help with the “ouch”!

Check ups with vaccinations are difficult for parents and children.  That first 2-month-old check up is often dreaded by parents because the first round of vaccines is given at that time.  It is very difficult for a Mommy and Daddy to see their precious baby “hurt” by a vaccine.  Some parents who choose to delay vaccines or actually refuse vaccines do so in part because of the discomfort vaccines cause.  Most of us thankfully have never seen the “discomfort” of many of the diseases that a vaccine prevents. I always tell parents that the discomfort and the risk of any side effect far outweigh the risk of the disease.  The vaccination causes discomfort, but discomfort for a purpose.

Often parents don’t realize how quickly an infant comforts after receiving a round of vaccines.  A study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in April of 2012 discussed the use of the 5S’s technique of shushing, swaddling, side positioning, sucking and swaying, from Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block book.  Infants who were soothed using his technique after vaccines were calmed within about 45 seconds.  Surprisingly, babies self comforted without any help within 3 to 4 minutes.  So, worse case scenario for most infants is a period of crying of a couple of minutes after injections.

As a parent, most of us feel better when we have a plan to comfort our babies, toddlers, and even older children.  Here are a few age appropriate tips:

  • Prepare yourself before the appointment.  Every aged child will respond with an increase in anxiety if Mom and Dad are very anxious.  Bring someone with you for support if necessary.
  • Prepare your child.  Toddler aged children need an explanation immediately before the injection, older children should be prepared prior to the appointment.  Be honest about the “ouch”.
  • The use of swaddling, side positioning, swaying, shushing, and sucking has been proven to calm an infant quickly after vaccines.
  • Use of sugar has repeatedly been proven to help with pain relief for babies undergoing painful procedures.  Some providers will have a sugar solution you can dip a pacifier in prior to the injection.
  • Breastfeeding will calm a baby after routine injections.
  • Use distraction…it helps parents too!  Talk to your child, sing a song, count, say the ABC’s, talk about what you will do during the rest of the day.  A recent study showed that older children coached to try the “cough trick” during an injection experienced less pain.  Another technique that works is to have a child “blow” out a pretend candle during the injection, or “blow” their favorite color into the corners of the room.
  • Give an older child some sense of control. Explain what each injection is for and the reason it is needed.  The anticipation of a shot is much worse than the actual injection! Ask the child what distraction technique they would like to try, let them choose which arm to receive the injection if possible.  A sense of control decreases anxiety.
  • Try swabbing alcohol on the forearm of the opposite arm receiving the injection.  Have your child blow on that area during the injection. Our bodies can’t feel cold and pain at the same time, so the feeling of cold from the alcohol and blowing will decrease the pain of the injection.  This also will provide a distraction!

The fact is, that even with these techniques children and parents are usually anxious about vaccines and vaccines are uncomfortable.  However, the discomfort is very short-lived, children comfort quickly, and the benefit of protecting your child is priceless.  Don’t wait, vaccinate your child!  Share what techniques have worked for your child!

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.


Add a little silliness to your discipline…it works!

A little “clowning around” with discipline will work!  Infuse a little silliness in your day!  :)

All the discipline discussion over the last few days and I feel like a very serious parent!  Discipline is serious business, and a very real necessity for your child, but there certainly are moments that a little bit of silliness or humor will diffuse a situation and result in your child not needing that time out!  Potential conflict can be diffused with a little bit of fun.  Humor can catch your child off guard and prevent a power struggle from even beginning.

1.  Use a funny voice.

Asking your child to pick up toys or do a chore that he has refused to do in a silly voice may just be enough to get him laughing and cooperate!

2.  Use physical humor.

Distraction with something that looks funny may just lighten the mood enough to encourage cooperation.  Your child doesn’t want to get dressed?  What would happen if you pretended to put on your child’s shirt?  What if you tried to put the arms of your child’s shirt on your child’s feet?  This little bit of silliness may be enough to get your child to forget about the battle and cooperate.  Sometimes using physical humor that is totally unexpected will diffuse a situation.  If you have a child who is melting down, put something silly on your head, make a funny face, do something goofy….you might see a little laugh through the tears and the situation is diffused.

3.  Use games.

Play games for cooperation.  Racing the clock to complete a request is a great game to encourage cooperation, but you can even be more creative.  Having trouble with your child holding your hand in a parking lot?  Try asking your child to “lead” you to the car because you “forgot” what your car looks like…walk up to the wrong car and pretend to get in and see the giggles start.  Each time you need to hold hands, start the game.  Think of a game to try in those situations that you know your child has difficulty cooperating.  Try it before the conflict begins, it may even become your own special game that just the two of you share!

4.  Rewind

Give your child a 2nd chance every once in a while.  If your child says “no” to a request, “rewind”.  Be silly and back up physically and rewind your voice…try the request again.  My husband was always very good at this….he would take our kids’ shoulders, turn them in a circle….and start over.  This usually brought a smile and a better choice to cooperate from our kids.

5.  Use a silly question.

If you get a defiant “No” from your child…try a silly question.  “Hmmm you don’t want to wear your coat?  What about wearing your bathing suit today?”  Sometimes a ridiculous suggestion or question results in cooperation!

Remember to use humor at the right moment.  There are times to be serious and follow through with your discipline plan, a firm “No” and a time out.  At no time should you use humor to belittle your child….but there certainly are times that a little fun and games can diffuse a stressful situation, increase your child’s cooperation, and let’s face it…make the day a bit more fun for both you and your child!  Increase your silliness today and see what happens.

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 child care dilemma, how do you choose?

Tragically, we sometimes see in the news a report about a child’s injury or death in a day care setting.  This is certainly rare, but the safety of child care is a topic that needs to be discussed for all new parents.  As parents, there ARE times that we will not be able to care for our child.  Some of us work outside of the home, and all of us need and deserve the occasional day or evening away.  Finding  daily child care or just occasional child care is a source of worry and anxiety for most parents.  How do you find a caregiver that you trust for your precious child? First START EARLY!  It takes time to do your research and find the best caregiver for your child!  Do not rush the process and always trust your gut! If a child care center, home or sitter does not feel right to you, then it isn’t!   Ask friends, family members, and other parents for their suggestions.  The best referral comes from a parent that uses the child care provider.

There are resources in each state that will help you get started with your search.  Child Care Aware is a website that you can access.  This site will direct you to your area’s child care referral system.  This will give you the local licensed and unlicensed day care centers, in home day cares, and church ministries.  By using the Child Care Aware website you will also be able to access any violations these centers may have. The  National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care produced a list of guidelines for parents that are looking for childcare.  These guidelines are as follows:


  • Are children supervised at all times, even when they are sleeping?
  • How do the caregivers discipline children? (Hint: Discipline should be positive, clear, consistent, and fair.)

 Hand washing and Diapering

  • Do all caregivers and children wash their hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom or changing diapers?
  • Is the place where diapers are changed clean?
  • Do caregivers always keep a hand on the child while diapering?
  • Do caregivers remove the soiled diaper without dirtying any surface not already in contact with stool or urine?
  • Do caregivers clean and sanitize the surface after finishing the changing process? (Hands should be scrubbed with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds and then rinsed and dried. The water faucet should be turned off with a paper towel.)

Director Qualifications

  • Does the director of a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
  • Has the director worked in child care for at least two years?
  • Does the director understand what children need to grow and learn?

Lead Teacher Qualifications

  • Does the lead teacher in a child care center have a bachelor’s degree in a child-related field?
  • Has the teacher worked in child care for at least one year?
  • Does the teacher give children lessons and toys that are right for their ages?

Child:Staff Ratio and Group Size

  • How many children are being cared for in the child care program?
  • How many caregivers are there? (Your child will get more attention if each caregiver has fewer children to care for. The younger the children are, the more caregivers there should be. For example, one family home caregiver should only take care of two infants.)


  • Is your child up-to-date on all of the required immunizations?
  • Does the child care program have records proving that the other children in care are up-to-date on all their required immunizations?

Toxic Substances

  • Are toxic substances like cleaning supplies and pest killers kept away from children?
  • Has the building been checked for dangerous substances like radon, lead and asbestos?
  • Is poison control information posted?

Emergency Plan

  • Does the child care program have an emergency plan if a child is injured, sick, or lost?
  • Does the child care program have first-aid kits?
  • Does the child care program have information about who to contact in an emergency?

 Fire/Emergency Drills

  • Does the child care program have a plan in case of a disaster like a fire, tornado, flood, blizzard, or earthquake?
  • Does the child care program do practice drills once every month?

Child Abuse

  • Can caregivers be seen by others at all times, so a child is never alone with one caregiver?
  • Have all caregivers undergone background check?
  • Have the caregivers been trained on how to prevent child abuse, how to recognize signs of child abuse, and how to report suspected child abuse?


  • Does the child care program keep medication out of reach from children?
  • Are the caregivers trained and the medications labeled to make sure the right child gets the right amount of the right medication at the right time?

Staff Training/First Aid

  • Have caregivers been trained how to keep children healthy and safe from injury and illness?
  • Do they know how to do first aid and rescue breathing?
  • Have they been trained to understand and meet the needs of children of different ages?
  • Are all child care staff, volunteers, and substitutes trained on and implementing infant back sleeping and safe sleep policies to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, crib death)? (When infants are sleeping, are they on their backs with no pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, or other soft bedding in the crib with them?)


  • Is the playground regularly inspected for safety?
  • Is the playground surrounded by a fence?
  • If there is a sandbox, is it clean?
  • Are the soil and playground surfaces checked often for dangerous substances and hazards?
  • Is equipment the right size and type for the age of children who use it

National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care (1-800-598-5437)

What do you do when you need an occasional babysitter?

  1. Start early—don’t wait until the last moment to try to find a sitter.
  2. Recruit from relatives, friends and neighbors.  Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for suggestions.  You can ask churches, high schools, your doctor, local colleges.  Network!
  3. Think about “training” a sitter.  Use a “mother’s helper” while you are in your house.  Have a younger sitter come to your house and help you out while you are there.  Gradually give more responsibility until you are comfortable leaving for shorter and then longer periods of time.
  4. Ask questions about a potential  sitter.
  • What other childcare experience do you have?
  • What are the ages of other children you have watched?
  • How would you handle certain, possibly difficult situations that might occur?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with children?
  • Tell me about school, sports, activities etc.
  • Do you know CPR or emergency procedures?  If you have a sitter that you may use frequently—why not pay for him or her to become CPR certified and take a safe sitter class?
  • How much do you charge?
  • References?
  • Questions for me?

5.  Orient a new sitter to your home.   Point out where phones are, fire extinguishers, circuit breakers, first aid kit, what is off limits to the kids, how to lock doors etc.

6. Discuss how they are to get in touch with you.

7.  Review rules of the home including those for meals, pets, TV, computer time, and play.

8.  Explain possible behavior problems and how you would want them to be handled.

9. Introduce the sitter to your child and let them get to know each other.   Allow some time together before you leave.

10.  Leave a list of activities that your child would like and any bed time routine.

11.  Make sure you leave your address, nearest crossroads, and any emergency numbers written by the phone.

12.  Discuss what food is available to the sitter and what activities for the sitter  you feel are appropriate once the children are in bed.

13. When you return home ask the sitter how things went and if your child is verbal, ask your child how he or she liked the sitter!  Children are very honest!

Your work is not finished once you find the child care facility or occasional sitter for your child.  As a parent, you must stay involved.  Continue to ask questions and make surprise visits. Your child is your most precious possession, and you must be your child’s advocate for safe and loving care when you are not there!

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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