Tag Archives: parenting

My daughter thinks another girl is pretty: Part 3

This week’s series of posts (read Part 1 and Part 2) has been all about my five-year-old daughter and how she thinks another girl is pretty, and the many opportunities to help her (and myself) learn more about life that have come out of these feelings. 

Handling Rejection

As I mentioned in Part 2, my daughter decorated a card for this girl and attached a pretty plastic ring to it. When she was done with the card she told me she was “scared” to give the card to the girl. I saw this as an opportunity for me to teach her about rejection. 

I asked her what she was “scared” of. She said, “what if the girl doesn’t like it or is mean about it.” I gave her some things to think about, and put the situation into perspective: 

1.) If it is kind words, you have no need to be scared. The best you can do is be kind to others, and saying nice things — being uplifting— is a good thing.

2.) If someone says “no” to you but remains respectful, we need to respect their choice. Consent is not just for boys. It works across all relationships—whether it be romantically or just a friendship. Everyone has the right to say “no”.

3.) If someone says “no” to you and are disrespectful/mean, you don’t need to worry about what those people think. They aren’t worth your time if they aren’t going to consider your feelings. If they are not going to be nice to you, then you don’t want to be their friend anyway. You deserve to be respected and treated fairly and kindly. Walk away from those situations where you are not treated with respect. 

Rejection is hard. No one likes to feel rejected, but it is part of life. Children, just as adults, need to learn how to handle rejection in a healthy manner. They need to understand what is ok and what is not when it comes to how other people treat them, and how they treat others. As adults, it is our job to help them process these situations so they know (1) its ok to be sad, disappointed (2) it is not ok to be treated unkindly, or to treat others unkindly (3) it is ok to say “no”. 

Do you remember the first time you felt rejection, how old were you? How did it make you feel? How have you helped your child through a moment of rejection?

My daughter thinks another girl is pretty: Part 1

The other day my five-year-old daughter confided in me that she thinks another girl is pretty— and not just pretty but “so pretty she wants to put a ring on it” pretty. Now at the age of five, I know that developmentally she doesn’t necessarily have a true concept of romantic love and attraction. But, it got me thinking.

My daughter has never been a big fan of being “girlie.” She insists on wearing “non-girl” clothes and her favorite shirt is a tuxedo t-shirt. She is her own person, and as her mother, I have no desire to try to change those parts of her. She deserves to be uplifted and encouraged to be her true self. Whoever she grows up to be, I am prepared to love her no matter what. 

Parents love unconditionally

That doesn’t change the fact that I am still going to be a parent to her. She still has to “suffer” through my firm, authoritative parenting and embarrassing mom-jokes (she will think they are funny too, someday). But, selfish love is not part of it. She will be loved in the way she needs, not in the way I want. I am her mother. I did not bring her into this world to make it all about me. I will accept her exactly as she is. I will love her unconditionally, with my whole heart and make sure she knows it. 

That is the meat of parenting—unconditional love. It is that thing that helps us to forgive quickly when mistakes are made. We want our kids to grow to be good, respectable, kind, caring adults who are contributing members of society, but we also want them to be comfortable in their own skin. We want our kids to know that no matter how hard life gets (as I am sure there will be many a bump in the road), and whatever comes there way, they can always count on our love. We brought them into this world to nurture and encourage them, while also teaching them how to be good people. While we may not always agree with some of the choices they make, we will still love them always, forever, with no strings attached.

What do you think? How should parents love their children? 

What is the hurry? It is ok to let your kids be bored over the summer

Summer is here. The kids are out of school. The other parents are talking about the programs they have their kids signed up for, the reading lists they are going to follow, and all the ways they are going to add structure back into their kids lives. It might feel like the pressure is on as a parent, but what is the hurry? 

Your kids will only be kids for so long. Soon enough they will have pressure-filled summers with little or no break. They will feel the stress of trying to be successful in life. They will feel overworked, overstimulated, overbooked…eventually. We don’t have to make them feel this pressure as little kids. Instead, let them be little.

Let them be bored. 

Being bored for a kid is a time to let their imagination grow. It is a time to relax. It gives kids time to be kids. They can climb the tree in the backyard, or build a fort in the living room. They can stay up late to watch a movie (which to them will seem super fun, when to us it feels necessary). Boredom teaches our kids how to entertain themselves. If they always have structure, always have a place to be, then they won’t know what to do with that “off” time. 

It gives you time to have more family experiences. You can randomly decide to check out the farm down the street, or a playground further away because you will have the time to do these things. You can decide to spend the day having a water balloon war, or read a book in the backyard. You can go on a picnic. 

Remember the days when our parents could say “go outside and don’t come back until dinner.” We might not be able to do exactly that, but we can teach our kids to fend for themselves. To come up with their own ideas. Downtime can help children to learn who they are and what they really love to do. When they have the choice to do whatever they want for a day—what will they choose? 

It also takes the pressure off you. You don’t need to plan the whole day, or week or month. You can take a breather. School time is structured and full of activities and obligations, summer doesn’t have to be. Summer can be free time. Teach your kids to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy being a kid. 

Are you a different leader at home than work?

Learning to be a good leader is one of those things that can be beneficial at home and at work. A good leader knows how to be objective and to work with the people at hand in the current situation. But sometimes we are different people and different leaders, at home than we are at the office.

There are different expectations at home than at work— and different co-managers, if you will. And, let’s admit it after a long hard day at the office it can be hard to continue that persona at home. While at the office you might be the one always stepping in to take the lead on projects—or vice versa, you might not need to do as much at the office than you do at home. You might be the one managing a team of employees and providing guidance on the steps they should be taking to be successful. But, as soon as you exit that building and get to your home with your family you might take more of a back seat. You might let your spouse take the lead more, or give your children more freedom to figure things out on their own. 

Each part makes up our whole

At home, you might be introverted. You might keep to yourself. All of this is ok. Each of these parts of ourselves make up our whole. We just have to be careful to not completely let go when we are home or to do the opposite and take on a dictatorship type of role. Effective leadership is different in each family and in each situation, but they all have a few simple traits in common:

1.) The ability to listen and acknowledge what is going on around you— you need to be able to determine if you should step in to take control of a situation, of if you should stand back and let the other people involved figure it out. 

2.) Use of the democratic process — leaders who are dictators are not respected and they are only listened to because of fear. By taking the thoughts and ideas and opinions of the other people around you into consideration when making decisions, you will be making the most-informed and best decision for everyone involved.

3.) Flexibility— no one is right all the time, and having the ability to recognize this and be flexible to change in situations can help things to run more smoothly. Not everything goes as planned at home or at work, so try not to be heart-broken and instead embrace change. 

4.) A level-head — being able to be strict and stern when needed, but also have the ability to find humor in a situation is a great quality. It also helps to have the ability to calm down in situations of high stress. 

Whatever your leadership persona at home or in the office, take a moment each week or month to really look around and evaluate. How are people acting? Are they happy? How productive are things? What can you do to make positive changes? 

A sandwich is just a sandwich: Taking the creative pressure off parenting

If you are a parent, chances are you have witnessed the heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the ants-on-a-log snack, or butterfly-shaped apple slices. There is no doubt this stuff is cute and can probably make lunches a little more fun and exciting, but is it really worth it? 

It is time-consuming and stressful enough to make sure your kids have sunscreen and bug spray applied, a hat, a bottle of water, and a lunch to eat. Do we really need to add the extra stress of making sure our kids’ food looks fun? I mean we want them to eat it, right? It doesn’t need to look cute for that to happen. 

We don’t need to be so kid-centric

There is so much pressure on parents these days to go above and beyond, to be a “Pinterest parent.” The reality is we don’t need to be so kid-centric. Our kids are not going to grow up scarred because we did not make their sandwiches into hearts every day. They are not going to be missing out on anything because their apple slices look like apple slices. Rather, they would benefit more from a nice post-it note in their lunch box, an encouraging sentence, or just a simple “I love you.” 

Instead of taking the extra time, and putting such immense pressure on ourselves to make everything “cute” and “fun,” take that time for you. Your children will benefit from a happy parent way more than a fun lunch. There is also no shame in allowing your children to purchase lunch at school or daycare so that you can have more quality time. That is the stuff that really matters. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself a break, take a deep breath and go give your kid a hug—that small gesture will go so much further than spending a half-hour trying to construct the perfect ants-on-a-log snack. 

What we are really telling our kids when we say “don’t worry”

I catch myself every once in a while telling my children to “not worry” when they are scared. It is almost instinctual. As a parent, of course, I wish my child would never have to worry about a thing, but that is not reality. When we tell our children to “not worry” it is like telling them they should not feel scared. We are telling them feeling scared is a bad thing. 

‘It is ok to be scared’

Instead of telling our children “don’t worry” when they are scared or concerned about something, we can replace it with something more reaffirming like “it is ok to be scared.” Because it is OK to be scared. We all get scared sometimes and we want our children to learn how to deal with those feelings, rather than to think they are wrong to feel that way.

It is also important that our children know what to do when they feel worried, or concerned, about something. If it is an external concern, such as a suspicious person or animal then we want our children to recognize safety—whether that be going to mom or dad, a teacher, or moving to a different location. By talking to them about what they should be doing at times when they are struggling with feelings of worry they will build healthy coping skills, and learn how to better take care of themselves in situations where mom or dad aren’t present. 

Feelings of worry or fear are part of our inner-being. They are important. It is our brain’s way of telling us to be careful, to tread lightly, to watch out. It is a protective mechanism. It is not something to ignore or shut off. 

Sometimes that worry or fear is caused by anxiety over something we might not need to be worried about, but acknowledging those feelings and learning how to calm ourselves down is also a very helpful skill. If we can help our children to learn and utilize these skills at a young age, it will help them to be more successful at managing their feelings as an adult. 

Three reasons not to pay your children for chores

We have all heard the positive arguments for paying your children to do chores: it teaches them how to manage money, it is motivating, it gives them an allowance to use on things they want, and it teaches them responsibility. 

The other day this very question came up in my home and my therapist brain kicked in and said: “this is a bad idea.” But why is it so bad? Here are three reasons why you don’t need to pay your children for chores, and why it could actually be a bad idea. 

Here is why:

1.)It teaches children that love is transactional. When you pay your children to be helpful and do things they should be doing out of love, you are teaching them they should get money for being a helpful, kind, contributing member of the family. Family members should be stepping in to help each other. It shouldn’t be expected that you will get paid every time you do something for family.

2.)They won’t learn intrinsic motivation. Rather than teaching your children that they will feel good if they help, that it makes other people happy, and all those other internal feelings that should motivate them in life, you are teaching them to do something only if there is an external reward. They are learning to only be motivated by external forces, rather than the internal rewards that build character and shape them as adults. 

3.)They won’t get paid for chores as an adult. Do you get paid every time you clean the toilet or do a load of laundry? I don’t think so. So why set that expectation? Your children will need to take care of the yard, their homes, and their family’s needs without any external rewards. It is just something that needs to get done.

If you do want to give your kids an allowance, pay them for doing things that are out of the routine. Maybe you need help sorting something or working on a home project. Those are great times to “hire” your children. When it comes to the daily routine, leave money out of it. Instead, tell them how appreciative you are of them for helping out. Thank them. Give them a high-five or a hug, but leave the money to the special circumstances.  

Talking to your child about your use of artificial conception

Using artificial means of conception, including artificial insemination and use of an egg donor, has become more commonplace now that technology has made it more readily available to couples. The question inevitability comes up with all parents who use these means of conception—what do we tell our children?  How do I tell my child? Understandably so this is a difficult topic to approach.

In the past, it was thought best that parents keep to themselves. That this is a personal decision and they didn’t need to tell anyone about it, including the child. However, research has shown just the opposite. Parents who fail to tell their child about this significant piece of genetic history faced grown children who were inevitably angry and hurt at the decision of their parents to not share such details. There are a host of reasons why parents may want to be honest with their children from a young age about their conception. 

Why you may want to tell your child?

First and foremost is medical history. When that child grows into an adult they will want to know more about their medical history, they will ask, and it would be helpful for them to know of any risks. Another big issue is identity. What if that child has a talent, or a body part that is unique to the rest of the family, they may start to feel lost or like an outcast to the family. Children who know their history are less likely to feel this way because they know the truth. And, the bottom line is it is hard to keep secrets and this is a big one. As the child’s parent it will eventually come out. The child will find out this piece of their history and it is nothing to be ashamed about. By keeping it from them you are making it seem like they should be ashamed when in real honesty it is a reason to celebrate. This child that you love dearly was possible because of technology, yes, but you still love him/her the same as any other child. Possibly you even appreciate having the ability to raise a child a little more because you understand the struggle. This was your dream, and you did what you could to make it happen for your family.

How do you tell your child?

Before you dive right into telling your child his/her conception story and what you may or may not know about the donor, test the field. What do I mean by this? Show the child a video or read a book, do something that presents the topic to him or her impersonally. This will help them to understand that these things do happen, and it will also help you to gauge whether he/she is ready to have a conversation about it. When you feel the child is ready, start the conversation out by saying that you have loved them from the very beginning, before they even existed, you have loved them since they were a thought in your head. All of this will help the child to process the information without feeling disconnected from the family. 

If you are having trouble talking to your child it may be helpful to seek out a licensed counselor who can help you set up a plan of action. And, know, while these concerns are normal, your child just wants to be loved and included in your family and if you make that clear from the beginning you have nothing to worry about. 

‘Just one child’

The other day I overheard someone asking a mom “Do you have just one child?” and it stopped me in my tracks — “JUST?” as if one child is not enough. As if your legitimacy as a mother is measured in how many children you have. That is just absurd.  

This post is for you moms— all of you. Whether you have one child or ten, whether you carried your children in your womb or you adopted them, whether you are a step-mom, whatever your status is you are still a mom. You are still in the business of raising child, you still understand the worry, the struggle, the loneliness, the unconditional love, the passion, the devotion, the satisfaction, and pure joy you get from seeing your children happy. 

No measure of motherhood

There is no measure that determines “how mom you are.” Having a child is a huge life change, it turns life as you have previously known it upside down. Whether you have chosen to stop at one or are unable for other reasons, you do you. You need to do what is best for your family, for yourself, for your sanity, and forget what the social pressure around you is saying. You need to take care of you, and you don’t need to explain your reasoning to anyone. 

As mother’s day approaches and puts into perspective just how hard our moms work, and how much we should honor and respect them, hold your head high — feel proud no matter what being a mom looks like to you. You deserve a pat on the back. You are the cook, teacher, maid, nurse, therapist, coach, and leader your kids need. They would not be who they are today without you. Relish in that accomplishment for a while. Take a deep breath, treat yourself to a massage, and count your blessings. Being a mom is hard work and it is also so incredibly beautiful. 

Tantrum Tips: Maintaining healthy boundaries and trust for happier kids and parents

The other day I was at the supermarket and I saw a mom who was having a hard time cajoling her five-year-old son to leave. She said, “we can get a toy next time.” Her son, unamused, continued to cry and wouldn’t leave. What I saw this mom do is something I also did early on in my parenting career. I said “next time” and then the next time I also said “next time.” By doing that I had set the stage for my kids to not trust what I was saying. They stopped believing me. 

As parents, we want to end the tantrums as swiftly and smoothly as possible, but we have to be careful of what we are doing and saying and what these things are teaching our children. Rather than trying to talk a child down by using special treats or privileges as a means of persuasion, and thus rewarding them for bad behavior, we need to take a different approach. After all, tantrums are a normal part of being a child. It is their way of expressing their emotions, and there are things we can do to help them process.

Maintaining boundaries and trust

Here are some things that can help to maintain healthy boundaries and trust between you and your child during tantrum moments:

1.)Set expectations: Before you go into the store calmly explain to your child that you will be picking up a few things for dinner and that will be all. That way they are not going into the store expecting to leave with a treat.

2.)Speak calmly: Look at your child and talk to them as calmly as you can (I know this can be very hard when you are frustrated). Explain to them that you understand they are upset, but this is not the way to get what they want. Offer to take a moment to sit down with them and calm down.

3.)Avoid rewards: Rewarding your child for leaving the store, or doing tasks they should be doing anyway is only encouraging more tantrums. It seems like an easy fix but they realize if they act this way they might eventually get what they want. Let them know this is not acceptable. Set a healthy boundary.

4.)Keep your word: Don’t promise things you can’t produce. You need to keep trust with your child in order to maintain a healthy relationship. If you have no intention of getting them a toy next time, then don’t promise it. If you can’t stick to your wills about taking away screen time for a day, then don’t make it a punishment. They will learn to not trust what you say.

5.)Quality time: Kids need quality together time. They don’t need rooms of toys or plate fulls of candy. They need game night, or books before bed. They need time with you to get 100 percent of the attention. Quality over quantity. It only has to be a few minutes a day, but make it meaningful. Chances are if your child has a mutual respect for you, they won’t feel the need for all the tantrums.