Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Encouraging Your Kids to Use their Manners During the Holidays

It can be nerve racking going to a family gathering and hoping your kids will be appreciative and use their manners. Preset your kids before going to the gathering and let them know what your expectations are. It's important that they understand that even if get a gift that is something they don't like, they should still use good manners, say "thank you" and show appreciation.
Check out this fun game to encourage manners...
Have your kids pick random items in your home and then have them give these items as a present to each other. When they open the gift (even if it's toilet paper), they must say "thank you" and also something nice about it. This is a fun way to get your kids ready for the holidays!! Make using manners fun and of course praise them when they do a good job!

Creating a Family Business Plan


One of Hollywood’s biggest couples, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, has appeared to survive the stress of Hollywood. We think our lives are stressful, but how do they manage along with two huge careers and a whole lot of media attention?

Oprah recently interviewed this amazing couple and they revealed some interesting ideas about how they view the family unit. First of all, they have designed a family business plan. I am a huge fan of goals and plans so this definitely sparked my attention. They decided that they need a plan to “facilitate and encourage the individuality of their children.” What a great idea!! They also mentioned that they expect their children to find their own way to add to the family group, neighborhood, and humanity.

As a person who has ADD, I definitely think staying on a plan is helpful to stay focused on your priorities. If having a respectful, happy family is a priority than it makes perfect sense to have a plan so everyone is on the same page and knows their role and expectations.

So, how do Will and Jada keep the spark alive in their relationship? Check out this clip http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Jada-Pinkett-Smith-Talks-About-How-She-Keeps-the-Spark-Alive-Video. I have a hard time understanding how Jada Pinkett Smith has to work at being attractive to her spouse (considering she is so freakin’ beautiful!) but I’m sure every couple has challenges in this area at times in their relationship. It’s nice to know I’m not alone at having to work at keeping my sex life alive sometimes! But I believe that keeping your love alive as a couple, keeps the family alive as a whole.
Finally, the Smiths’ allowed their young daughter to shave the sides of her hair and shave a star design into it. Hmmm…If my daughter asked me if she could do that, how would I respond? That’s a tough one! Well, I would not be excited about it for sure, but isn’t it my job to encourage her to be proud of who she is, make her think she is beautiful no matter what, and encourage her to be creative? Will explained, “Your children can have as much ‘freedom’ as they can handle, then if they make a mistake you have to pull back those freedoms. Not necessarily in punishments, but revoke some freedoms.”

It’s a struggle to pick your battles when your children want something that you don’t especially like, but isn’t it our job to encourage individuality? After hearing the Smith’s perspective, I will think again when my daughter asks me for something I think is absolutely ridiculous.

I find this Hollywood couple to be such an inspiration to the everyday family. Although we look at them like they ‘have it made’, I am convinced that living in the spotlight has tremendous challenges. Although, every family has their problems, I really admire their motivation, devotion, and respect for one another and feel we can all learn from their ideas….I know I have!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Is it OK to Use Santa as a Bribe?

Using Santa's gifts as an incentive for good behavior is very tempting this time of year. The question is, can threatening Santa's visit be a bad thing? Well, first of all, don't make promises you can't keep (IE. "If you are bad, Santa will not come!") Making those kinds of threats are unrealistic and not a fair punishment for bad behavior. Instead, focus on the true spirit of the holiday. If we focus too much on Santa and presents than we might be sending our children the message that presents are what's most important about the holiday. Instead, donate your time to a nearby organization or visit a nearby nursing home with your children to spend time with the residents or even sing some Christmas Carols. In my opinion, using Santa as an incentive is not a bad thing, as long as you are clear and don't make promises you can't keep. Encourage good choices by saying something like,"Remember, Santa is watching you!" but don't loose focus that these choices are good because it's the right thing (not just because Santa is watching!) In addition, Christmas is a great opportunity to read bible stories and learn about the true spirit of giving! The bottom line...encouraging good behavior for Santa's arrival here and there is OK but make sure you all also teach your children all the other reasons to make good choices and enjoy the true spirit of the holiday.

Monday, November 22, 2010

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders. ~Abigail Van Buren

Substitute Beans for Meat for a Healthy and Cheap Alternative

Looking for great ways to make cheap and easy recipes? My husband and I love beans but sometimes I forget to incorporate them into our dinners. Did you know that beans are low in fat and cholesterol free? They are also high in fiber and are often used to replace meat in many diets. Buying beans in place of meat is a great substitute. It will save you money on your grocery bill and will give you a healthier meal for your family. There are many recipes with beans (baked beans, black beans, chili to name a few!)
Here is one I really like (and I hope you will too!):


Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to Deal with your Child's 'Not so Great' Teacher

Let's face it, it's a part of life. You're child will have over many teachers in his or her life and they will not all be good! However, if we view bad teachers as a learning experience, our children will become more resilient and successful overall. Here's how...

1. Communicate Remember, your child only offers one side of the story and your child may be leaving important information out of the story. Talk to your child's teacher politely and find out the whole story. Try to put yourself in the teacher's shoes. The teacher may be new, going through a difficult time in their personal life, or have other information about the situation.

2. Setting boundaries. Be your child's advocate. If there are issues that you are concerned about, don't be afraid to address the situation with the teacher and ask for follow up. If the issue still isn't resolved, look for other options such as talking to a principal about the problem. If that doesn't work, you may need to speak to someone even higher up the chain. Just think carefully and have a plan before acting out in anger. Remember, your child may need to be in the classroom for many more months and you want to make the situation better (not more difficult) for them.

3. Show Respect. Although you may not like your child's teacher, you still need to be respectful. (This may require biting your tongue in front of your child!) Even when you are home, avoid talking badly about the teacher in front of your child.

4. Be positive. Making the best of the situation will help your child overcome the situation and allow them to focus on the what's really important....school work. It will also encourage them to overcome the situation instead of being the victim.

Avoiding difficult people doesn't solve problems and can lead to negative self esteem in children. Instead, teach your children to use the tools they have to overcome their struggles and allow these experiences to be a positive experience instead of a negative one. Try not to focus too much on the problem and instead focus on the schoolwork, reminding your child that your teacher is there to teach not to be your friend. Overall, your child will walk away from this experience with a new lesson in their pocket and a better view on education.

To Stay at Home or Work? What's Best for You?

These are some of the hardest decisions we have to make but we often make it harder than it needs to be! If we follow our intuition and let go of the guilt, we can be happy no matter what we decide (and so can our children!)...it's that simple. If you are struggling with whether you should go back to school, work, or quit your job and stay home with the kids...here are some ideas that may help you out with your decision.

Should you work full time?  Being a stay at home mom is not for everyone and if it's not for you, you certainly shouldn't feel bad about it! I feel so bad hearing women (or men) who are unhappy about staying at home with their children. Everyone goes through rough days (maybe even a week) but if you are finding yourself unhappy for extended periods of time, think of some other options. If most of the following statements match your feelings, perhaps it's time to go back to work, go back to school, or work part time.
1. You are going into debt because you can't afford to pay your bills.

2. You are not known to be very patient.

3. You miss your old job constantly.

4. 10 minutes of duck duck goose is enough to drive you into the grave.

5. The thought of repeating the same thing 55 times a day is less than enticing.

6. You think a play date is the worst possible thing you could do with your time.

7. You constantly miss the lifestyle you had while you were working.

8. You find yourself moody and resentful of the life your significant other has outside the home.

9. If you hear Elmo's laugh one more time, you might punch yourself in the face.

10. You have found your passion/niche (and it doesn't involve being a stay at home mom!)

Should you work Part Time? New research indicates that moms that work part time are the happiest because they have their time away but don't feel overwhelmed by trying to do everything. If the following statements match your feelings, it may be time to look into a part time job or even going back to school.
1. You have to work to pay the bills (and by bills I mean mortgage, utilities, or car payments). You hate constantly worrying about how you're going to pay the electric bill.
2. You miss getting out and feeling like an adult.
3. You would like to make a little extra money for a nice pair of boots you've been eyeing up.

4. You enjoy staying at home (most of the time) but sometimes feel chained to the house and need a break.

Should you stay at home full time?

1. You truly enjoy playing hide n seek, duck duck goose, and reading Elmo books (it's not for everyone after all)

2. You enjoy being creative and finding new games to play.

3. Coloring and crafts are a hobby of yours.

4. You often find yourself singing Barney songs.

5. The thought of working full time and letting someone else take care of your child makes you feel ill.

6. You feel like staying at home with the kids is what you were meant to do.

Whatever choice you make, the important thing is to feel confident in your decision and not carry around guilt. Also, it's enough to know that you are a good mom if you are able to pay your bills, keep your children in a safe and fulfilling environment (even if it's not with you!), and still be true to yourself!

How to Make Mealtimes Memorable

There are so many ways to show your child that they are loved and mealtimes are a great chance to do that. Using your creativity to show your love can provide your kids with wonderful memories that they can cherish into adulthood. Here are a few ideas to get you started..

1. Own a Special plate. My mom had this cool plate for us while we were growing up and I loved it. We got the privilege of using the special plate whenever we did something good (good grade, birthday, or just for the heck of it!) I always love this tradition and use it with my family now. Here's the link if you'd like to purchase the Special Plate

2. Keep it simple. We eat at the table every night and I enjoy it.  As a single mom, making a healthy dinner after we get home at 5:30 can be my biggest struggle.  We ALWAYS have a better night when I am able to spend a little time with them instead of spending 45 minutes cooking then cleaning up. Therefore, heating up leftovers, having food ready in the crockpot, or ordering out can be a lifesaver.

3. Engage Children in the Process. If you plan ahead, you can ask your kids to pick a meal and help you get the ingredients at the grocery store (and even help you stir or pour ingredients into the bowls). Another idea? Children of all ages seem to love making Place cards for other family members (or guests). Set your child up with materials to make place cards while you get dinner ready.

4. Engage.  Not every mealtime has to be a blast but making mealtimes fun will engage children in the process.  Make a schedule and have each kid be in charge of picking out what they want for dinner one night a week (WARNING: provide choices or you may be eating ice cream every week!)  Pick a country such as Italy or Mexico and make a recipe from that county (don't worry-tacos or pizza is creative enough!) Bonus: Find a new word from that country and use it while you are having dinner! 

5. Question game. This is something you can do every night. Get your kids talking by asking what is their least favorite part of their day and best part of their day.  Another game the kids like to play is taking turns saying "what I like about you is...." 

6.  Don't fight.  Don't set your expectations too high but expecting kids to eat most of what's on their plate is reasonable.  If your child doesn't want to come to the table, ask one of the kids to turn the t.v off in 2 minutes and then have them turn the t.v off.  If they still won't come to the table, tell them the t.v still goes off during dinner hour and tell them you will put their plate in the fridge until later but they will be eating by themselves.

Although all of these ideas are fun, the important thing is just being together. Remember, your kids (especially teenagers) might complain "UGH! family dinner is ridiculous!" but years from now they will look back with a smile and remember those special moments with family!

How to Be a Happy Mom

1.  Setting Boundaries.  This is the most important tool for a happy mom.  I could talk about boundaries all day....but the truth is I really think having this skill is the most important skill a happy mom could have.  Being able to stay no
You may have grown up thinking that putting everyone else first is what a "good mom" does, but the truth is if you always put everyone else first, you will end up miserable, not fun to be around, and resentful.  If this is you, don't worry.  Setting boundaries is very difficult and uncomomfortable at first but it does get easier as you do it more and people will eventually respect you for setting your limits.

2.  Exercise.  Feeling good about yourself is so important, not to mention being healthy.  Exercise is a healthy escape from caring for children. Also, maintaining a healthy weight is something that will give you control and ability to keep up with the fast pace of your children. 

3.  Good nutrition.  Eating a variety of fruits, veggies, and whole grains will give a happy mom sustainable energy and ward off sickness.  Good nutrition also helps to maintain a healthy weight making you feel better about yourself.

4.  Good support system.  Developing a good support system is essentional for being a happy mom.  In addtion, hire a good babysitter

5.  Good Resources.  I love books and reading great blogs on the web.  Finding your favorite websites, books, and/or magazines will help you come up with new ideas when you face the many questions that face a parent.

6.  Know yourself.  Following your intution, pursuing your passions and keeping your identity will help you feel like you are not only a mom, but still a person.  Although your directions change a little once you have a child, you can still follow your dreams and create the life that you want.