Friday, April 29, 2011

Focus Fridays! What Can We Learn From the Royal Wedding?

I have often thought about how ridiculous the princess fairtales are for children and I have wondered how I'm going to raise two daughters to be focused on things other than beauty and not think that a perfect prince charming will sweep them off their feet and make all their dreams come true.
 Some of these princess fairy tales seem so hokey to me so I like to also teach  my daughter about trains, cars, and how things work.

Balance can allow us the freedom to enjoy many different parts of life.  Focusing on physical beauty all the time is a bad thing but teaching our young ladies that true beauty is about kindness, respect, simplicity, and generosity can be a good thing.  So, what can we learn from a princess?  We can learn good manners, being kind to others, extreme focus, proper care of your belongings, and of course watching the wedding today, a chance at unconditional love and faithfulness.

I know many people think that William and Kate's royal wedding affair seems way over the top (and perhaps it is) but one day of pomp and circumstance for a couple that seems to be truly in love seems like a great thing to me!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Royal Wedding Game

This is the perfect game for boys and girls of different ages and is perfect for the celebration of the Royal Wedding which is happening this Friday.  In addition, this great game helps your child learn the skill of focus while also having a blast!

British soldiers are known for their seriousness and their ability to not be distracted while on duty.  Although tourists will try to talk to them or get their attention, these focused and well trained individuals will not move an inch. 

Want to join in on the fun?  Try this game...
Have one child pretend to be a British soldier while others attempt to make him or her laugh (without touching the "soldier")  Test your child to see how long your "soldier" will last without moving, itching, or laughing. If you have more than one person in on the game, try to see who can last the longest. 

C'mon Mom, you can join in on this fun game too!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Focus Friday! Earth Day!

Sienna celebrates Earth Day and begins a special ritual with her Dad planting flowers!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Toddler Tuesday! 3 Steps to an Easy Morning

As toddlers begin to go through the independent stage, (you know, "Me do it!" "I got it Mommy!") they become a little more difficult to get ready in the morning! Here are a few ways you can avoid these morning struggles.

1.  Prepare in the Evening.  First, get mentally prepared the night before of what the morning will look like, what you will give your child for breakfast, etc.  Lay out your toddlers clothes the night before eliminating the temptation for them to want to go through their closet and pick out their outfit.  If you'd like to give them some choices then let them pick out their socks or a choice of only 2 shirts that you already have out.  Make it simple for you and for them!

2.  Wake up earlier.  I know, as if you don't already wake up early enough, right? Even though it's hard to drag yourself out of bed, it will pay off in the long run.  Although you can't give your toddler complete independence, letting them try to do some things on their own is an important part of their learning process. 
Also, getting up before your child is awake and maybe even having some coffee and can be especially helpful to mentally prepare yourself before the craziness begins.

3.  Stick to a routine.   Routine is so important for toddlers.  Try to be consistant with meals, t.v, and a morning routine as much as you can and most importantly be consistent MOST of the time with any warnings you give.  At this stage, it's helpful if your child learns when you really mean the word "No" or when it's OK to challenge you a little.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Simple Sunday! 3 Easy Ways to Get Your Family Focused!

My martial arts training has given me many tools to make my life easier and happier. Learning to focus effectively has helped my relationships, my work life, and even my health. Here are a few easy ways that you you can provide your children with an environment that is less distracting and more productive.

1. Provide a simple environment. When children are really young, their playtime is their learning time. If we allowBold them to completely focus on the activity they are doing, they will be more creative and learn more from what they are doing.
Have your children take out a certain number of toys at a time so they are less overwhelmed. (Of course, this also helps make clean up easier!) Be realistic and take into consideration their age and abilities. Use your awesome motherly intuition to figure out how many toys are too many. Watch your child intently to see if they seem overwhelmed and adjust accordingly.

Wondering how to get your teen to focus? Limit thier temptation to socialize with friends by keeping the phone in a certain place where you can see it such as the kitchen counter. However, don't forget to let them have it when they need their socialization time!!

2. Turn off the t.v. Creating an overstimulating environment will make it harder for children to focus in quiet areas (like the classroom). Make it easier for them to focus on whatever it is they are doing such as family dinner, homework, playtime, or reading by turning off the t.v.

3. Avoid giving your children too much caffeine and/or sugar. Giving a child a lot of sugar or caffeine and then expecting them to focus and be in control is not really a fair expectation to ask of your children. Giving them healthy snacks instead will make it easier for them to focus and sit still.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Focus Friday! Bullying Vs. Teasing

What's the difference between bullying and getting teased?  I don't think anyone in this world could tell you that they've never been picked but I believe bullying is another subject entirely.  To me, bullying is a reoccurring, relentless act which is extremely harmful to the ego of the person receiving the treatment.  However, "getting picked on" is a somewhat normal occurrence because children go through different stages of life where they struggle with communicating their needs and feelings effectively.  Bullying is such a sensitive topic that I am treading carefully as to not seem as though bullying should not be taken seriously. However, I do want to share my thoughts about preventing bullying vs. teasing.

So, are we teaching our children the difference between bullying and occasional teasing? Are we giving them proper coping skills to handle these situations effectively?  Are we creating a generation of children that believe that getting picked on is bullying and therefore encouraging our kids to look to parents and teachers to address the issue instead of confronting the situation themselves?

Almost every day I hear more stories on the news about bullying.  Today I was watching Good Morning America and saw a segment about a woman who paid for her daughter to have reconstructive ear surgery because she didn't want her daughter to be "bullied" about the size of her ears.  Have we gone to far in our obsession about bullying?  I'm concerned that this child will not have positive self esteem and will eventually find something else that she feels makes her less than everyone else.

There will always be bullies and mean people in this world.  Let's face it!  However, serious bullying has become a major problem in our schools and communities and has had devastating effects on innocent children.  It is not something to be taken lightly.  But perhaps we are doing our children a disservice by not defining the difference between bullying and teasing.  If we guard our children too much from difficult people than they will not learn coping skills for handing these situations as an adult.

It scares me when parents will do anything to avoid confrontation and then pass this trait on to their children.  If we learn to love ourselves completely (no matter what we look like) than we will be happier and more resilient as children and as adults. 

Here are some ways we can help our children learn build coping skills when encountering teasing.  Using these strategies can even prevent teasing from escalating into being bullied.
Check out this awesome segment on Dateline:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Simple Sunday! Easter Egg Hunt With a Twist

Easter egg hunts are always a hit with kids this time of year!  Try this great game to weigh in on the fun and also encourage kindness among siblings.

1.  Buy plastic Easter eggs (or reuse old ones!)

2.  Have your children write compliments about their siblings on paper, fold them up, and put them in separate plastic eggs. 

3.  Hide the Easter Eggs and start the hunt!  When the children open the eggs, they will enjoy reading the compliments. Also, if you have more than one kid playing the game it will be fun for the kids to figure out who the compliment is for!

Friday, April 8, 2011

How to Get Your Kids to Play Games With You

Does the idea or having a game night with your family conjure up images of fights, talking back and whining?  Do you think that a fun family game night is something that only happens on t.v?  Do you feel bad for even thinking about how awful it might be?  Or do you worry that your children will say they're bored and want to go play video games instead? Well, don't despair because you are not alone!  Many parents feel skeptical about such events and avoid them because they don't know how to deal with challenges (or less than perfect results) but don't give up because you CAN have a successful family game night using these ideas.

First of all, remember that a kid's job is to challenge.  Challenging ideas is how they learn to be independent (which is actually an important part of development).  In fact, most children begin using the word "no" before any other word when they are first learning to talk. Allowing your child to use their independence at appropriate times (while being respectful) is essential for allowing them to develop their ego and feel in control.  Here's an example.  When you ask your child if he wants to play a game with you and he says "no"
Here are some tricks to get things rolling...

1.  Avoid asking open ended questions (ex. Do you want to...") instead, give options.  Allow your child to be "in charge" and part of the decision making.  Giving children options is a great way to allow them to feel part of the process.  Make sure you think ahead and give options that are realistic and appropriate (and if you are trying to spend quality time, having t.v as an option is probably not a good idea!)

2.  Assess the situation.  There are times when a child might question if a parent truly wants to spend time with them or has another motive in mind (IE. Dad only wants me to play baseball with me because he wants me to be the best player on the baseball team." or "Mom has been away for work trips and thinks work is more important than me so why is she trying to play with me now?"

I know these thoughts might sting but addressing them (and being honest) is the only way to move forward.  If this might be the case for you, get down on your child's level and ask them why they seem unhappy.  Avoid a lengthy conversation because they may not be able to identify their feelings but open the door so that they are able to talk to you and feel like you CARE about how they feel.  Then, allow your child a chance to feel sad but (if needed) but play the game anyway so they have to opportunity to jump in when they feel comfortable.  They may need a little space and want to be the one to decide if they participate or not.

3. Don't be surprised if they are resistance.  Every child is different and every child challenges at different times (especially as they approach the teen years!).  Often, it's hard to decide weather your child is just being resistant or being disrespectful.  I remember my mom having game night when we were younger and we would roll our eyes and say, "I'd rather be playing with friends!" (but the truth was I really enjoyed myself!) Also, our friends would be jealous and want to come over and participate!  Now, we look back with great memories and appreciate those special times with family!
 4.  Don't go crazy trying to find the PERFECT activity.  I have encountered many parents who say, "My child just doesn't like crafts", or "My child doesn't like sports."  To me, these statements are a child's way of trying to control the parent.  Even though the activity may not be your child's favorite, it doesn't mean they can't enjoy it!  Try to keep your child's interest in mind (IE. Making a Dora craft if they like Dora) but don't go crazy trying to please them, the important thing is having quality time together!

5.  Avoid punishment.  Unless your child is making disrespectful comments, don't give a time out or send them to their room for not wanting to participate in the game.  If they do begin making disrepectful comments, give them non emotional warnings, then follow through with consequences (of course, don't forget to follow up with a conversation about what happened following the time out or consequence for behavior). 

6.  Praise them.  After you finish the game or activity with your child, make sure you take a moment or two to put your hand on their shoulder and thank them for the time and let them know you really enjoyed it!  No matter how old your child is, they need to hear these reminders!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Toddler Tuesday! Planning a Birthday Party on a Budget

Having a child’s birthday party can be very stressful and frustrating if it’s expensive and chaotic. KEEP IT SIMPLE (and fun!) with my tips to have an awesome party.

Keep your party simpleKids do not need a lot! A change of scenery, their friends, and some cake will almost always ensure a great time!! Remember, knowing that it’s their special day is the fun part of a birthday party (and that is FREE!)

Be preparedThink ahead, make lists and ask for help! Remember, the more prepared you are the easier everything will be when the day comes. I have found that people are more than willing to help if you ask. LISTEN to your child and ask them what they would like! Give some ideas or suggestions to get them started. Have them help with decorating or picking out items to get them excited! Giving them a job (making signs or invitations) can make them feel engaged (and also keep them busy while you do prep work!)

Ask for ideasTalk to other moms about what they have used, what they liked and what they didn’t like. A friend of mine had an idea for a fishing party. She posted a question on her facebook status to see if anyone had any ideas. You wouldn’t believe the amount of ideas and suggestions that came “floating” in (no pun intended!)

Shop efficientlySet a budget and stick to it so you won’t regret spending too much. Remember, fun does NOT = expensive. I promise you! The dollar store and party stores are great places to shop for birthday supplies. Oriental Trading is also a great resource. Subscribe to their catalog for great theme ideas and all-in-one stop shopping (and it’s cheap too!)  Also, Frugal Family Fun Blog has some great ideas as well!

Be realistic
If you are not the kind of person who likes hosting a party and you have the money, SEND THE PARTY ELSEWHERE! (No-this does not mean you’re a bad mom!!)
BOUNCE companies are popping up everywhere and kids (and adults) absolutely LOVE these places. These places are essentially an indoor playground of inflated bouncing machines. These places are safe, easy and fun for all. A nearby place offers a complete party for $430.00. This includes up to 25 guests, pizza, cake, t-shirt, invitations and professionals to run the party.

Whatever your child’s interests are (dancing, soccer, martial arts) ask around at the place your child takes lessons or places that offer lessons. NOTE: This can be a great opportunity for your child to find out weather he wants take lessons in that particular thing!

Savor your child’s youth and excitement-it won’t last forever! Take lots of pictures (another thing you can ask someone to do!) and remember that you will someday miss these precious moments.

Do you have more questions or need more help? Check out this great article for more great tips for kid’s birthday party

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Letting Go of Our Mistakes

What is a mistake?
A mistake is something that we do by accident. No mistake is ever intentional! I looked mistake up in the dictionary and this is what I found:

MISTAKE - noun
an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.
a misunderstanding or misconception.

So, why do we beat ourselves up over the mistakes we make as mothers? Whether we regret something little we have done or something big, we have become experts at holding onto these regrets and beating ourselves up about it.

The way I see it, making a mistake is a good thing. It is an opportunity for us to grow and learn. So why do we hold onto mistakes like they are treasure and don’t want to let them go? The truth is, they can be treasure but only if we choose to learn from our experience. If we don’t learn from them, a mistake can be an anchor keeping us in the same place. Sometimes we make the same mistakes again and again (and that’s o.k) but we are always given the chance to make a change and have a fresh start. The point is, that the mistakes are in the past and we must live in the present or we are only doing ourselves and those around us a disservice.  Here's how...
Talk to a friend or therapist.  If your having trouble letting go of something that's bothering you, talk to a friend.  Even though we must move forward and live in the present,  if we ignore our mistakes then we are likely to repeat them. 

Journaling.  Journaling is a great way to work through a mistake that we are holding onto. When facing these issues, we begin to see the bigger picture and forgive ourselves (or feel less pressure once we share our concern).  Often we know the answers to our problems but working through them on paper helps us to process the issue and then let go of it.

Letting Go Box - Research has shown that people have an easier time letting go of problems when they write them down and put them into a box.  Whether you are a religous person or not, the physical action of this exercise reminds us that the issue is not longer ours.
Making a mistake is a great opportunity to show our children that no one is perfect and it’s OK if we make a bad choice. Acknowledging our mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and making changes is an important part of life. It’s so amazing to be able to model this to a child and teach them these great lessons so that when they make a mistake they will be able to dust themselves off and keep going without thinking they are a failure.

So, we have covered how we want our children to feel about mistakes but what about ourselves?? Why don’t we start showing ourselves the same kind of love and forgive ourselves for the many mistakes we make???

What other ways can we move forward from our past??