Dubsmash for Dads (and moms too)

Dubsmash as a coping mechanism for raising children? That’s right.

Let’s all agree that parenting is basically a repeat exercise in figuring out how to stay sane while caring for the needs and (often non-sensical) wants of the relentless and demanding small people we created, and as such, are responsible for.

It can be a vicious cycle, maintaining a sense of humor seems to be key in the process. But what do I know? I’m only 7.5 years into it, talk to me in 10.

All I know is that this dad, who used Dubsmash to record his way through the first year of his daughter’s life, he seems to be doing it right.

At this point in my parenting game, I’ve realized that it’s pretty much whatever helps you get through, right? For some people that might look like excessive social media usage or perhaps a few adult beverages once the children have gone to bed.

For other people it might be Dubsmash, and in this case, we all benefit from that.

My hat’s off to you, comrade!

10 Ways I’m a Different Mom to My Youngest Child {Sorry, I’m not Sorry}

10 Ways I'm a Different Mom To My Youngest

Dear youngest child . . . you’ve been the beneficiary of a much more chill mom. Some might call it laziness, I call it an increased ability to prioritize what’s really important.

Here’s what’s different:

I Don’t Stress Out As Much About Bad Behavior/Tantrums

With my first two, who were very close in age, I stressed out so much about their bad behavior. With every social impropriety my oldest executed I conjured up an image of my little toddler son growing up, unable to handle his temper, roving the streets with brass knuckles and a vendetta.

As a first time parent, I policed their behavior and had to be sure to demonstrate at a playdate that my kids were to be held accountable for every little misdeed.

Guess what? The oldest? He’s a teenager now, and a very sweet boy. He doesn’t own a pair of brass knuckles that I know of.

By the time I had my youngest I had a deep realization that kids just don’t get it right all of the time nor can they be expected to (nor do I have the energy to get my panties in a twist over it). Sure, I correct the behavior and try to help them right their wrongs, but the obsessive piece? It’s gone.  Difficulty sharing or a scuffle with another toddler does not amount to a future as a hardened criminal.

I Don’t Obsess About Kindergarten Choices (Public vs. Private vs. Charter vs. Homeschool vs. Online vs. Picketing at the Capitol)

I put so much thought and energy into figuring out what school would shape my first child and the impact that it would have on his life.

The more that time goes on, the more I’m convinced that the life skills they get from us at home like persistence, tackling hard things, learning how to be a self starter and motivating yourself .  . . those are more important than the gifted and talented programs and the extracurriculars. Those life skills are the things differentiate what kids grow up to become way more than the public vs. private debate.

Needless to say I’m a fan of our neighborhood school. Walking to school alongside neighbors, not having to drive miles for playdates, and yes, often crowded classrooms and a lackluster teacher here and there. Such is life.

We’ve had some good teachers, we’ve had some bad teachers, and the kids are just fine.

What’s “Mom & Me” and “Gymboree”?

Let’s face it. If you’re a new mom, those classes are more for you than your child. I did them all with my oldest. With my youngest? Who’s got time for that? My older two don’t remember one minute of Gymboree, Soccer Buddies or Music and Me, as a matter of fact I could make the whole thing up and they’d never know the difference. I was the one that needed something to do.

By the time the youngest rolled in, what I needed to do was get a little extra sleep instead of busting a move to these time fillers.

Breastfeeding vs.  Bottle Feeding

My first two were breastfed exclusively. I couldn’t get them to take bottles. I loved it, and I was also bound by it. My 3rd had to make the move to formula because of allergies. I couldn’t cut enough food out of my diet to feed her in a way that wasn’t causing havoc on her digestive system.

I was devastated at first. I felt like a bad mother. I missed the connection of nursing. But guess what I found out? Bottles have their upside. And formula is a blessing for kids who need it. My 3rd was easier to leave with babysitters, loved her bottle, and has actually turned out to be my child who gets sick THE LEAST.

My view on breast is best? That’s changed to “whatever works best for you and your baby is best”.

What Happened To Baby Photos at 3, 6, 9, 12?

Kid #1 was a regular at Kiddie Kandids (are they still in business?). Kids #3 is lucky to get her annual school pictures.

Don’t you worry though – there’s not lack of photographic evidence of her existence. With the rise of Instagram and mobile phone photography she’s still got her mug saved {in high volume} for all of her posterity to see.

I Don’t Save Every Scrap of Paper

I was a certified hoarder with my first child. I won’t be surprised if I find an envelope someday with his fingernail clippings in it.

The difference in the volume of folders and boxes between my oldest and youngest is staggering.

I Quit Penalizing Kids With Runny Noses

A runny  nose was enough to justify quarantine at a playdate or to get you and your family banned from a family party. I can still see it happening with my younger, newer parent in-laws at family parties. And I get it, and I also laugh. There is a righteous disgust and judgement leveled for bringing the slightest version of a cold to a family function. We’re long over that stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want your Type B strain coming around for Sunday dinner, but we’ll all survive your kid with the runny nose.

We Stay Home . . . A Lot

We stay home A LOT more.

I used to be the mom with an outing every day, snacks and sippies in tow.

I remember the day my 5-year-old asked me {rather expectantly) what I had planned for them that day.  He was clearly waiting for me to roll out the fun bus. That’s when I realized I needed to cut way back on the constant outings. They needed to get cozy entertaining themselves a bit more. The reality was that the outings were a little more for me than them. It got us out, I met up with friends, they played with other kids. It’s not a bad thing. But it was too much.

By the time the youngest one rolled around, I had not only adjusted my mentality on outings, but I was also MUCH busier with the general run around of my older kids. The seasons pass to the zoo just didn’t make sense anymore.

Actually, at this stage of the game, there’s nothing I love more than just staying home.

I Don’t Stress Out (as much) About Schedules

Running multiple kids around requires flexibility and a rigid nap and sleep schedule doesn’t always work well with that.  By my 3rd, I ceased worrying whether bedtime was on time or if her cat nap in the car totally blew her nap time routine. We just needed to get through the day.

As a result, she’s been a more flexible sleeper and is even the first to put herself to bed when she gets tired.

I’m Not That Worried About What Teacher They Get

I used to have a sense that a lackluster teacher could make or break our educational trajectory. I’ve realized it doesn’t.  And even if there is difficulty, for the most part, they can get through it.

Some teachers are better than others and we’re not going to win every time. They are going to have to learn to deal and adjust.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the thing: The oldest, the youngest, the middle, they all seem to be surviving my parenting. But the longer I’m at this, the less neurotic I am about the things that don’t matter.

That’s a win for everyone.

 

3 Ways Smart Parents Help Their Kids Turn ‘Mistakes’ Into SUCCESS

Tips to turn your child's mistakes into success!

They can’t learn anything if they’re not allowed to try and try again.

“Wow, she’s a natural at soccer.”

 “He’s like a math prodigy!”

 “Did you see how well she plays the violin? And she’s only five.”

Growing up, I was in awe of kids and adults who displayed raw talent in sports, academics, music, and other areas. In fact, I thought such innate, effortless talent was the only path to success.

Don’t get me wrong — My mom attempted to influence me with the truism: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Yet, to me, it seemed that the pathway to success shouldn’t include practicing by making mistakes. How wrong I was!

I consistently tried new things and then gave up if I didn’t flourish almost instantly. I didn’t learn until much later that making mistakes is not only a healthy part of learning, it can provide the greatest opportunities for success.

Here are three powerful and actionable strategies for improving your child’s view of mistakes and success:

1. Reframe your child’s perspective about mistakes

For most kids, making a mistake means “doing something wrong.” That outlook makes facing a challenge difficult.

World-renowned researcher of motivation Carol Dweck reveals that those who adopt that type of “fixed mindset” — a belief that intelligence, character, and creative ability are innate and immutable — cap their own potential by avoiding challenge.

On the contrary, those who believe that intelligence and abilities are assets we nurture and cultivate through hard work possess “growth mindsets.” For those kids, making a mistake is an opportunity to learn. Dweck’s studies are clear: Kids with a growth mindset take on more challenges, bounce back more quickly from setbacks, and thrive academically in comparison to those with fixed mindsets.

Fortunately, we can help our kids nurture growth mindsets. For example, the simple awareness that the brain is a muscle that we can develop helps us do just that. Giving a child space to work out problems and make mistakes without fear of judgment, shame or punishment is another way to cultivate his or her growth mindset.

2.  Change YOUR reactions to your child’s mistakes  

Most of us learned early in life to hide our mistakes, putting as much distance between us and our failure as possible. While society (and general human nature) are largely to blame for reinforcing such attitudes and behaviors, as parents, we now have the power to break that toxic way of thinking.

If children fear the consequences of accidently knocking over that plant in the living room, getting a low grade, or cutting their little sister’s bangs with their crafting scissors, we’re fostering in them a fear of making mistakes at all (including the critical ones they’ll need to make to grow into healthy, well-functioning adults).

While I am not proposing a life with no consequences (or toddler-staffed barbershops), I AM proposing that we examine our own reactions as parents and educators to our children’s mistakes. The vast majority of mistakes young children make are relatively harmless. They have fixable outcomes that children can learn from.

Making mistakes is part of “trying” … part of “practicing” … two things we encourage our children to do all the time. Only through our calm reactions to mistakes can we establish this mentality in our children, and only through consistent application can we make it stick. (Having a two toddlers at home myself, I know this takes practice.)

3. Help your child stop negative self-talk 

“Why didn’t I do better on that test? I’m so dumb! I wish I was smarter.”

It’s common to adopt a voice of self-criticism after making a mistake. But it’s time to teach our children to treat themselves as they treat their own best friends. Research shows self-compassion trumps self-criticism on the path toward reaching our goals.

Wait — isn’t this a form of self-indulgence? Shouldn’t we teach our kids accountability for their mistakes?

A pioneer in self-compassion, Dr. Kristin Neff says there are three common misconceptions about the nature of self-compassion:

  • First, self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-pity tends toward the self-absorbed end of the spectrum. It ignores the fact that many others have made the same mistake. It focuses on what happened rather than on what should happen next, and it emphasizes taking inspiration from shared experiences.
  • Second, self-compassion is not self-indulgence. Teaching your children self-compassion does not mean coddling them or teaching them to coddle themselves. Point out to your children that being truly compassionate with themselves necessarily involves setting themselves up for futures of growth and success. Self-indulgence is nearly always couched in short-term pleasure and, consequently, is usually less than compassionate.
  • Third, self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem. In a culture where we value standing out and being special, where average people need to believe they are above average, self-esteem hinges on determining one’s “value” through self-analysis. Self-compassion, on the contrary, is blind to value. You’re already “enough” as you are.

We must teach our children to feel compassion for themselves simply because they’re human. Practicing self-compassion allows our kids to observe, acknowledge, and learn from their mistakes without feeling shame, all without regard to external circumstances or skill levels.

Making mistakes is essential to success. 

If we can teach our children to view mistakes as opportunities, to embrace their mistakes, and to practice self-compassion, we give them powerful and exponentially rewarding gifts. They will inevitably find more success and genuinely make the world a better, kinder place.

Join Renee on a mission to teach children invaluable skills including resilience, self-compassion, how to take on anxiety, and much more at Gozen.com

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4 Jedi Mind(fulness) Tricks To Help Your Anxious Child

Do you kids get anxiety? Great tips in this post!

Use the Force to calm their fears.

My favorite movies of all time come from the original Star Wars trilogy. Growing up, I often played with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader action figures, pretending I too was a Jedi Knight.

It’s not surprising that when I faced adversity in the 7th grade, I turned to the power of the Force.

Middle school hurt. Social intimidation, academic challenges, and parental pressures all set against the backdrop of swirling hormones and my personal penchant for worry.

Around age 12, my anxiety really took flight and started to knock the wind right out of me  literally.

The smallest challenges sparked internal firestorms of thoughts that manifested in stomachaches, crying, and often shortness of breath.

My parents tried to cleave me from the throes of panic with consistent love and reassurance, but to no avail. As I grew, so too did their feelings of helplessness. Not wanting them (or me) to suffer any further, I enacted a plan.

I asked myself what a Jedi would do in this situation. The answer was obvious: use the Force to build a protective shield.

So I built one–an impenetrable emotional force shield. If I were anxious about an exam, I pushed the worry deep inside until I couldn’t feel it. If I didn’t get asked to a dance, I wasn’t hurt because it bounced off my shield and I felt nothing. By my first year of high school I had perfected the practice and became a full-fledged emotional stoic. When my parents asked how I was doing, I would say, “Fine. Fine. Nothing new.”

I believed my own words until the plan started to fall apart, and in the end was nothing short of an epic fail.

Instead of wielding the Force, I numbed it, particularly the dark side. Here’s the thing: numbing my dark emotions had unforeseen consequences; it also numbed the light. 

Research confirms that in squashing worry, sadness, anger, and fear, we also push out joy, gratitude, meaning, and purpose. In choosing not to feel, I became a veritable robot with a ticking time bomb inside.

That bomb went off at age 25. Mired in a messy relationship, I hit rock bottom. Panic attacks, anxiety, and fear were un-tethered and came roaring back. I sought therapy, and with this blessing the trajectory of my life changed. I learned to focus inward, and for the first time in years I allowed all of my feelings — light and dark — to surface without judgment. In doing so, I finally unearthed the true secret of the Jedi: mindfulness.

You see, Luke Skywalker is a beacon of strength and a guardian of peace and justice not because he always feels happy and good. In fact, like all of us, Luke experiences fear, anger, worry, and even moments of hate. And though these emotions can be overwhelming, through his Jedi training, Luke learns to sit with his discomfort. He allows his emotions to surface and pass.

In practicing mindfulness, Luke’s emotions are stripped of their designations. Instead of “dark” and “light” or “good” and “bad,” emotions simply become what they were always meant to be: communication tools.

By the time Luke reaches the final battle with his father, Darth Vader, in Return of the Jedi, he is a master of mindfulness. When anger or worry spark within him, he closes his eyes and feels his emotion, allows it to surface, listens to the message it brings, and then makes a decision on how to proceed based on that information.

My first attempt at Jedi training was based on an unsophisticated understanding of the Force. With a different perspective and years of mindfulness practice, I feel confident in passing on some more effective Jedi lessons to our children.

If you have an anxious child (and especially if they love Star Wars), try these 4 Jedi mind(fulness) techniques:

1. Define the “Force”.


Giphy

In the Star Wars’ movies, it becomes clear very quickly that the Force is an awesome power that everyone wants. But what exactly IS the Force?

When I work with kids, I provide them with my interpretation. The Force is the power we get from any emotion whether it comes from the light side or the dark side. From love, joy, and surprise to anger, sadness, and worry, nothing is “good” or “bad.” These emotions are only messengers, and all are part of the Force.

Very plainly, the Force = the power of emotions.

Try this: Ask your child if he or she would like to go through Jedi training. Tell them that their mission will be to decode the secret messages being sent by the Force (e.g., their worried thoughts, their angry feelings).

 

2. Wave hello to the dark side.


Wow247

If your child feels anxious, the way around the discomfort is straight through it. We must teach our children not to deny, avoid, or squash parts of their emotional experience. Long-term avoidance of emotions can actually spark and perpetuate depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. When we choose not to face our worry, we are left much like Darth Vader, enslaved by our pain.

The alternative to avoidance is acknowledgement. I understand helping your child acknowledge his or her anxious feelings instead of shutting them down is not an easy choice. Sometimes it’s easier to just say, “Don’t worry so much. Please trust me, it’ll be fine.”

As a parent myself, I completely understand this path. Sometimes we don’t have the emotional fortitude to support a child’s chronic worry, especially when it seems our love and reassurance are not having a positive effect. Anxious emotions are often big emotions that can be uncomfortable for the entire family.

All that said, when you parent an anxious child, you seek one thing above almost anything else for your child: inner peace. Toward this goal, acknowledgement is the stepping stone.

Try this: Next time your children worry, tell them they are a Jedi Knight, and Jedis acknowledge the Force (an emotion) when they feel it. They can wave hello to their worry and say, “Hey, worry. I see you’re back. I’m a Jedi. I understand you’re trying to tell me something.”

 

3. Lean into the Dark Side


Giphy.com

Leaning into the dark side takes training because, at first, it can feel messy and uncomfortable. Leaning in means allowing your child the space to physically feel where the Force or worry is flowing on the inside. Allowing discomfort to pass gets us a step closer to decoding the message from our emotion.

Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, and as such, feelings of worry are often felt in such places as the stomach, chest, and throat. Breathing with visualization can calm the nervous system and begin to kick a child’s logical brain back into gear.

Try this: Obi-Wan instructs Luke to close his eyes and, “Stretch out with your feelings”; Yoda says, “Allow the force to flow through you.” When your son or daughter worries, have them close their eyes and ask them where they are feeling the worry or the Force flowing inside of their body.

Now, ask your children to breathe into the place in their body where they feel the Force. While they take a deep breath, ask them to imagine what the Force actually looks like. What color is it? What consistency is it? Maybe it looks like a dark cloud. Once they have the visual, ask them to breathe the Force out.

To support your child during this process, you can use phrases like, “I am here, and you are completely safe, my young Jedi. This feeling will pass.”

 

4. Put the Light Saber Down


Giphy

Our range of feelings (light and dark) creates our emotional consciousness and gives power to the Force. Within this consciousness lie encoded messages. The problem is we usually miss the communication being sent by our emotions such as anger and worry because we are too busy reacting. Swift reactions cover up messages.

Darth Vader tries to provoke these reactions in his son, Luke. Vader says, “So you have a twin sister? If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will.” Luke feels very angry and even as a full Jedi Knight trained in the art of mindfulness, he does not pause to acknowledge or lean in to his anger. Instead, he reacts right away and begins to battle his father.

When Luke regains his composure, he realizes that his anger is communicating that he wants to love and protect his family, including his father. Luke then decides the best way to teach his father about the light side is to show him compassion. So he turns his light saber off and tosses it aside.

Now, this last step may seem way too esoteric for your child to grasp, but I’ve worked with children for years. Even at a very young age, they are incredibly sophisticated. If we communicate in their language, they get it.

Try this: Let’s teach kids their worry is trying to send them a message, but the message is encoded. As a Jedi, the way to get to the secret message is to be mindful when we feel worried. This means understanding worry has a purpose, acknowledging it, leaning into it, and then making a logical decision on how to proceed.

 

On this quest toward training the next generation of Jedi, may the Force be with all of us.

This article is meant to provide some practical steps to help your anxious child and to highlight the idea we can use different (and fun!) ways to teach our children the art of resilience. For more engaging anxiety relief techniques for your child, join Renee at gozen.com.

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10 Things I Did As A New Parent That I Would NEVER Do Again

Here are a few things I wouldn't do as a new parent if I had the chance to start all over again.

Remember: never second-guess yourself.

As a first time parent there are always things you do because you’re a nervous newbie who’s learning on the go. Or in other words, new parenting is basically trial-by-fire and sometimes it can be explosive, especially those breastfed baby poops.

Here are a few things I wouldn’t do as a new parent if I had the chance to start all over again.

  1. Throwing big birthday parties

Since my former husband and I started celebrating our daughter’s birthday with a big celebration, it means the expectations are set high. To pull back and say, “Oh, let’s just havefamily over for cake” right now would be an epic fail because expectations have fallen into place. This does NOT mean that I can’t say, “Hey daughter, parties are expensive. Let’s scale down this year,” but it does make it harder.

Truthfully, I have one child and I don’t mind celebrating her birthday in style, especially for the first birthday (which is really a party for the parents, but maybe I would’ve gone more low-key after that until kindergarten). Once you set the bar high with anything in life, it’s hard to lower it; it’s key in all aspects of parenthood to set realistic expectations for our children.

  1. Not hiring a non-family member babysitter sooner

As a single mom, I have a babysitter that I can rely on now; however, when my daughter was first born it took me a long time (years) to find a stable babysitter who could stay with us for the long-term. I had one wonderful babysitter, but she had to leave for a full-time position, and after that I didn’t rush to find someone new, mostly due to financial reasons.

I should’ve gotten on top of that pronto, because even if you’re broke you have to pay for good family care backup. Obviously a family member will be more trusted than a stranger, but you can’t always tell your family what to do with your kid (because the person may not listen), and at the time, I had issues with my former mother-in-law.

Plus, my parents are older and don’t have the same energy they once did. Having someone to call as a “just in case” is a smart idea. There were many opportunities I missed because I had no reliable help and couldn’t leave my daughter alone.

  1. Buying too many clothes

In the beginning I went a little crazy with my daughter, and honestly, there were items left hanging with tags and bows, never worn. Now I under-buy and have to make purchases mid-season because I underestimated. Did my daughter need that many bows? Um, no, unless she planned on growing up to be a Christmas present.

Be careful to not go too crazy buying clothing, especially if you have a girl; they tear through clothes. Borrow from friends. Hand-me-downs rock. And don’t worry about it being a “hand-me-down.”

  1. Worrying about small accidents

Toddlers and infants fall. Repeatedly. Guess what? They survive. But it drove me crazy watching my daughter toddle around and — smack! — hit her head on something. I felt like a bad parent, when it was just a developmental stage and had nothing to do with me as a person. What parent can prevent all falls?

As long as it’s not a huge fall, your kid will survive. It’s hard when you’re a new parent, and it’s the first time you’ve had to worry about padding a coffee table and suddenly every area of your house looks like a danger zone.

  1. Staying with the same pediatrician

I ended up switching pediatricians at the end of her first year of life, but I wished I had switched sooner. I felt skeptical of some of her first doctor’s advice and bedside manner, and I should’ve acted quicker.

Was he a stable doctor? Yes. Did he have good advice? Sure. Was he the right doctor for our family? No, and I should’ve trusted my instincts sooner. He wasn’t harmful but I doubted myself too much. Don’t doubt yourself! If a doctor doesn’t seem right to you or doesn’t work with your personality, switch ASAP.

  1. Keeping everything too tidy and clean

It’s good for kids to get messy. Of course, both myself and my daughter’s father are neat freaks and so is my child, but I wished I had encouraged her to make a mess more often. It’s freeing, and a little outdoor germs and mud never hurt anyone but your carpets.

  1. Not letting my daughter self-wean

I decided to wean my daughter for a medical reason at thirteen months old. There was nothing I could’ve done to change that decision. I feel very good about how I raised her as an infant and toddler and what I currently do with her today, but I would’ve been happier if I let her self-wean.

I felt strongly that she should decide when nursing was over, but my health dictated that we wean right away. It wasn’t terribly sudden or handled improperly but the process happened more quickly than I would’ve liked. Thankfully, my daughter handled it pretty well and didn’t seem distraught.

  1. Introducing vegetables too late

My former husband and I did a modified version of baby-led weaning with our child, so she’s turned out to be a great eater. But I introduced raw veggies late, so she only prefers raw carrots. Introducing them at four years old is harder than introducing at two years old or sooner.

She will eat them cooked (broccoli, carrots, peas) but to all parents: introduce as many new foods as soon as your child can handle chewing them. The later you wait to introduce them, the harder it is. I’m thankful we gave her a great variety of foods and flavors, but perhaps I just thought that raw veggies were more of an adult food. Either way, don’t forget to add them to your little one’s plate.

  1. Worrying about comments from in-laws

I wish I had cared less about other’s comments about my parenting, but in particular, ex-in-laws. It was wasted energy to worry about such things. If you have a family member or friend you never see eye-to-eye with, you most likely won’t see eye-to-eye with this person on parenting, so drop the small fights, pick battles wisely, and ignore unnecessary rude comments.

Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let yourself get down, because you aren’t on this earth to please everyone and the most important person that should be happy is your child and you (and spouse if you’ve got one). Someone will always have something to say about your parenting.

  1. Not keeping my mouth shut

Did grandma buy another stuffed toy? Just say thank you and zip your lips, and don’t complain to grandma. It’s useless; she will do it again, and again, and again. Instead, just re-gift or return the gifts for something you need. Someone will always get you useless baby stuff. Just trust me.

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12 Hilariously Epic Lies Parents Have Actually Told Their Children

"My six-year-old STILL believes I actually have eyes in the back of my head."

Hey. We’ve all done it.

If you’re a parent, then you’ve likely lied to your kids; maybe you even tell them little lies every single day. Sometimes it’s just easier to lie to children than to explain the truth to them, and sometimes these little lies make our lives, as their parents, a little more bearable.

Here are some of the most laughable lies that have been told to clueless children.

1. I’m always watching you.

“I told my kids I put hidden cameras all over the house so I can always see what they’re doing or what’s happened when I’m away.”

2. I drink at all hours of the day.

“Our toddler is only aware of four beverages: milk, water, tea and beer. When I’m drinking something other than these, like a soda that I know is bad for me, and she happens to see me and call me out on it, I just tell her it’s beer. Even if it’s 10 AM. Eventually this may become an issue.”

3. You can only stay here if you behave.

“I tell my kids that most restaurants have a policy that misbehaving children have to leave immediately. They’ve always been really well behaved at restaurants because I remind them of this often.”

4. It’s time to leave.

“When I want to leave a store before my son is ready, I tell him they’re closing and we need to leave so they can lock the doors. Occasionally, I get the store clerk to play along.”

5. You need to keep your voice down, or else…

“Recently, my four-year-old, Molly, was throwing an epic screaming tantrum in the parking lot. She was standing very close to a metal grate in the pavement. So I told her she had better quiet down or the Trolls would come up and eat her. Everyone knows that Trolls love deliciously loud children. She snapped her mouth shut and jumped in the car, wide-eyed with fright.”

6. Some lies stick with you forever.

“My six-year-old STILL believes I actually have eyes in the back of my head.”

7. Watch what you say.

“I told my much younger brother that it’s illegal to swear before you turn 16. He believed it for a few years.”

8. You have to learn how to use the potty sometime.

“I told my kid that snakes poop in the potty. (Not sure what the motivation is for that one!)”

9. Your toys have minds of their own.

“I tell my kids that I have no idea what happened to certain toys (that I got rid of).”

10. Bad things will happen if you don’t listen.

“Every time something bad happens in a Disney movie, I tell my kids that it’s because they didn’t listen to their parents. Nemo was kidnapped because he didn’t listen to his dad about staying close by. Ariel’s dad got turned into a slug because she didn’t listen. Merida’s mom was turned into a bear because she didn’t listen. You get the idea!”

11. You don’t want to know what happens if you don’t stop running around.

“If you stub your toe more than ten times, the skin won’t grow back. It definitely made my daughter stop running around barefoot as much.”

12. You’ll be comfortable soon enough.

“My usually-honest-to-a-fault parents used to drag my sister and I on long hikes. I remember being told there was an air-conditioned gift shop at the top of one particular mountain. They LIED.”

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5 Ways To Guarantee Your Kids NEVER Say ‘I’m Bored’ Ever, Ever Again

Here are a few solo ideas of activities that will keep your kids engaged.

They’ll need to learn how to be alone some day.

There’s a concerning new trend with twenty-first century kids. Perhaps because they’ve been programmed and scheduled and micro-managed and adult supervised, many seem to have a tough time enjoying their own company and entertaining themselves.

So when it comes to free time, they’re perplexed. Their solution: plugging into computers, televisions, or video games, or saying those dreaded words that every parent hates to hear: “I’m bored!”

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Why not start today and use this as a golden opportunity to teach your munchkin to entertain his or herself and learn to handle that glorious commodity called boredom? After all, your kid is going to be in his own company for the rest of his life, and there’s no better time than now to help him learn to enjoy his own company.

Depending on your child’s age and ability, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Help them learn to be alone.

A word to the wise: if your kids come back after two minutes of alone time, you may need to first teach your kids how to enjoy their own company.

The truth is some of our kids actually need to learn how to play alone. Start by thinking of age-appropriate activities that your child could do alone: For a young child: doing a puzzle; for an older kid: learning to play Solitaire.

Or, teach your child the solo activity using the baby step model: First, show them how to do the game together. Next, watch and guide to ensure he knows the rules. Finally, wean him from you being there until your child is playing alone.

2. Make time for activities.

You still have to be the boss of free play. At first your kids aren’t going to run off like Tom Sawyer. Put up a calendar where you and your kid mark in regularly scheduled activities (like days at school, after school camp, sports or swim lessons). Keep some hours open, and point out that those are times when your kid is free and on their own.

Ideally, you want to find the right balance between free play versus adult supervised play, outdoor play versus indoor play, structured activities versus unstructured. Only you will know the right balance for your child, but keep an eye on what your child’s current weekend schedule looks like.

3. Set clear limits on unplugging from technology.

Meaning, set a specific limit for TV or video games. Keep in mind that the average child ages 8 to 17 is plugged into some kind of electronic device at least 7.5 hours a day, so wean your kid away from those video games. Your first step is to assess just how often your child is plugged in.

This weekend, take a casual assessment (without your kid knowing you’re monitoring them). How many minutes is she watching TV or surfing the net or playing video games? Decide a maximum time allotment and then post those rules so your kid is clear on those expectations. If not, you may end up with a coach potato.

4. Teach your child that you aren’t their sole entertainer.

Of course, a toddler can’t occupy his time alone, nor do you want him to. But you will want to gradually start your child weaning away from needing you 24/7 when you see he or she is ready to learn those independent skills. Think baby steps: just wean him a little bit at a time by encouraging him to handle life slowly and confidently without you.

You gauge your child’s abilities, but remember that your parenting goal is to help your child learn to someday live (and play!) without you. Start with, “I’ll be back in one minute. I can’t wait to see what you drew when I return. Surprise me!” Then, keep your word and keep increasing alone time.

5. Find activities to keep your kids engaged while alone.

Here are a few solo ideas of activities that will keep your kids engaged. The secret is to tailor the ideas to your child’s attention span, abilities and age when you start child-directed free play:

  • Get a library card: Profound, eh? The greatest solo activity for a kid is a good book. So encourage your child to read! Take your child to the library, or get them a magazine subscription.
  • Check out books on tape to listen to in the car: And then discuss them. It’s a great way to boost vocabulary and auditory recall. Download a classic onto your tween’s iPod. There are fabulous lists of free downloads on Kindle.
  • Start a hobby: Children should have hobbies. The right match with the right kid often turns into a lifelong love. The trick is to find one that incorporates your child’s interests and ability, and is one that he can do alone. Play the guitar. Knitting. Drawing. Photography. Cooking. Gardening. Coin or stamp collecting. Hobbies not only nurture a child’s talent, but also become a wonderful relaxer, and can last a lifetime.
  • Embrace the great outdoors: While that sounds simple enough, sometimes kids need a push to get out the door. Keep a basket filled with fun things that keep kids entertained (bubble blowers, rubber balls, sidewalk chalk, scooters, shovels and pails). Set up a basketball net. Give them a kite building kit.
  • Think boxes, boxes, boxes (did I say boxes?): Stock up on them and in every size, from small jewelry boxes to refrigerator crates. Give your kids marking pens and masking tape, and they can make igloos, forts, villages, castles, garages, storefronts and hotels. Give them flashlights and they can turn them into caves.
  • Teach unplugged games: I love Bobbi Conner’s great book, Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. It’s a parent and teacher must-have because it’s chock full of fabulous outdoor ideas. It also has dozens of great childhood games like Mother May I, Duck, Duck, Goose, and Round Robin that you can teach your child. Just teach it once and your kid can teach the rest of the neighborhood.

Now, the absolute last thing I’m suggesting you do is all this stuff. But why not just trying one new thing? Stick to a realistic plan that works for your family.

And then if one of your kids just dares to say, “I’m bored!” tell them you have the perfect solution: a list of household chores that you just happen to have posted on the fridge. I bet you anything he’ll find something to do.

Isn’t it ironic that we have to teach kids how to play and occupy alone time? I’m a big one for kids and lemonade stands, cloud gazing, daisy chains and ball bouncing. I’m also convinced just a little more time in the dirt and water would reduce a lot of kid stress. Hopefully I’m not the only one!

………

Michele Borba, Ed.D., is an educational psychologist, former teacher, and mom. She is recognized for offering research-driven advice culled from a career of working with over one million parents, educators, and children. A Today show contributor and recipient of the National Educator Award, Michele is the author of 23 books.

This article was originally published at GalTime. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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How Living On A Tropical Island TOTALLY Changed My Parenting Style

Living in Barbados

Your baby doesn’t need gymnastics lessons. I promise.

Sweet ‘N Low? Check. Pizza-flavored Pringles? Check. Just the right shade of the more than one hundred nail polish colors offered by OPI? Check. I was stocked up and ready to return from my trip to the United States and head back to my newly adopted country, Barbados.

I’ve been on the island of Barbados for a year, taking in the delights of island paradise with my husband and my one-year-old son. Those delights, however, don’t include a wide variety of artificial sweeteners at the café table. Pink, blue, and yellow packets have no place in the land of cheap, delicious, plentiful sugar. Real sugar. The kind served scooped out of a bowl.

Those other items I brought with me? More “necessities” that are either hard to find or simply unavailable here in the Caribbean.

I’ve been getting better about letting go of the consumer preferences I’ve built up over years in the land of choice. But old habits are hard to shake. Why not stick with what you love? Why not demand hundreds of colors of nail polish so you can find the very best one? Because too many choices can make us miserable, that’s why.

In a psychological phenomenon dubbed the “paradox of choice,” we have more choices than ever and are less satisfied than ever with the choices we ultimately make. With entire aisles devoted to pizza, cereal and pasta sauce, we’re frankly just awful at figuring out what will make us happy.

I have no pizza-flavored Pringles in Barbados but I do have mangoes, when they’re in season. And avocados, when they’re in season. And when they are, it’s cause for celebration. My husband, my baby and I gobble them down with delight.

The paradox of choice doesn’t just apply to what we eat; it also applies to what we do. And one of the things we do best in America is keeping busy, choosing from a wide array of hobbies, activities, and outings.

In Barbados, I’m not busy. When I first moved here, any time I saw mother with a young child, I’d ask her what she recommended I do here with my baby. I always encountered blank looks or raised eyebrows? “Do? Like go to the beach?”

Well, sure, but what about the splash parks? What about strawberry picking? What about Mommy and Me music classes? What about the Baby Shakespeare stage theater series, like the one in my hometown? What would we DO? How was my baby ever going to catch up to those busy, busy Americans?

I’m not sure about the catching up but I can tell you about what we do: we go to the beach. Because those other moms are right. Use what you’ve got. And here, what we’ve got is a whole lot of beach.

The first few times we took my son onto the sand, he literally screamed with delight. He sat facing the water, kicked his legs and squealed. Even after regular weekend trips to the ocean, his excitement has barely dimmed. Who needs a splash park? Who needs options? There’s sand to play in, open fields to toddle in, and dirt to dig in.

When he (finally) was old enough that he stopped trying to eat sand, I went to the local toy store to buy him some sand toys. What did I find? A bucket and pail set: One airplane themed, one cupcake themed. Two choices. No water flutes, no wind-up sharks, no boats, no aisles of toys. Just a bucket and pail.

It’s enough. He gleefully fills, dumps and repeats. He’s as happy as a clam. It doesn’t take much to make a child happy. And for right now, my child is happy. We’ll worry about Shakespeare later.

Dear Single Moms: Your Kids Will Be Fine. Love, A Child Of Divorce

You can do this, even when you don’t think you can.

Photo: Wendy Wisner

You can do this, even when you don’t think you can.

I won’t lie. There were times growing up that I hated my mom.

She was a single mom. She spent her days teaching emotionally disturbed children and would come home totally exhausted. Some days she was so tired that she locked herself in her room and took a nap. There were microwave dinners, burnt dinners, cold pizza dinners. There were tears and raised voices.

There were times I called her the worst possible names. There were times I cried. There were times she cried, too.

But there were also good days, and there were always reconciliations. There were always afternoons when she swept me and my sister up in the car and took us out for frozen yogurt. Sometimes she would take us out driving just to see the fancy rich people’s houses. Sometimes we’d drive through the woods just to get lost.

I always loved my mom and appreciated her in the midst of the turmoil. She was my rock. The reason I could hate her and spill my guts out to her is because I knew she loved me unconditionally. I knew she would always, without a doubt, be there for me.

And it’s the reason that despite a childhood filled with divorce, custody battles, and latch-key afternoons, my sister and I grew up to be kick-ass women. We grew up to be independent women who know how to get things done. And most importantly, we became women who know how to love with all our hearts.

I don’t think I fully appreciated all she did for us until I became a mother myself. The early years of babyhood punched me in the face. Here I was, dripping breast milk, covered in spit-up and snot, and existing on very little sleep. I was attending to the needs of these tiny little beings whose entire existence depended on me.

But the thing was, I had help. I had a husband who took equal charge of the parenting duties (except for the parts that involved my boobs, of course).

I cannot for the life of me believe how my mother did that alone. My dad was a good dad with a heart of gold. He was around when I was a baby. But when my sister was born, my mom was on her own for those endless, sleepless nights. And she had me to reckon with, too. I helped, but I was five years old, so there were definite limits.

I have no idea how she did it, but I’m incredibly indebted to her for it ALL.

I’m certainly not a single mother myself, but I have many dear friends who are, and having grown up so closely entwined with my mom, I feel deep empathy for all the single moms out there. If there’s one thing I want to tell single mamas, it’s this: YOU GOT THIS.

You’re doing great. You’re imperfect; all mothers are. But just by trying, just by showing up each long day, each long night, you’re performing magic for your children. You’re giving your all, even when you think you’re failing.

This is what all kids need: they need YOU. Your presence and love. That’s what anchors them, and keeps them whole.

Some days you don’t see it. The kids are cranky; they’re crying. I know you’re lying in bed at the end of your day crying, too. I know you’re wishing you could be two people at once. You’re wishing you had someone to bounce parenting ideas off of. You just want a nap, a few extra hours in the day.

But you’re doing it. You are. And here’s the most important thing to know: Your kids will be all right. Your kids will shine.

Thank you. Thank you for spending these years putting blood, sweat, and tears into your children’s lives. Thank you for sacrificing sleep and sanity. Your children might not thank you now, but it means everything to them.

I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but each day you’re doing the most important work on earth. So cut yourself a little slack, hold your kiddos close, and rock on.

You’re doing great.

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11 Things I Keep Stocked In My House for Flu Season

The stuff you need to have on hand when sickness hits your house!

I like to be prepared. I’m not trying to get all viral outbreak up in here, but there’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night with a sick kid and not having what you need.

Here’s a list of our “medicine cabinet must- haves”:

Clorox Wipes

Costco sized.  When sickness hits we run over doorknobs, sink handles, anything applicable in the radius.

Throw Up Bags

I’m done rinsing out throw up bowls. It’s gross. There’s always a splash factor. I always feel like I’m just spreading 1 billion more germs by doing that clean up hustle.

The formal name for these genius little bags is “Emesis Sack” which is the really nice way of saying “Vomit Sack”. The ring around the top is the perfect size for little (or big) faces. These can be thrown directly in the garbage. Done.

You can get 24 of them on Amazon for about $10.

Throw Up Bags

Stock Up on Standards

Can I level with you? In the very back of my irrational mind I envision a massive flu outbreak and that everyone has bought the pharmacy out of what I need. This is the stuff I buy for the cupboard in Costco sized bottles:

  • Motrin
  • Tylenol
  • Vitamin C
  • Cold Meds

All Natural Hand Sanitizer 

The best? Cleanwell All Natural Hand Sanitizer. Get the ICK off your hands without wiping out the good germs on your hands too. BONUS: the scent is AMAZING! The spray format lasts FOREVER. 

Cleanwell All Natural Hand Sanitizer

Also. Let’s be honest, your kids have been dipped in the hard stuff all day at school. We all need a natural alternative.

Essential Oils

Everyone’s got a magical story about healing oils. Our family? We just think they make things smell better. A few drops of lavender on the kids pillows? It’s just one more thing we can do to help them feel more comfortable.

Jello

We stick with the berry flavors.

I know it’s like the most counter intuitive thing to put in your belly to make you FEEL BETTER, but it’s our go too once tender tummies feel like eating again. I’m not quite sure of the science. It coats their tummies with gelatin? Provides a quick rush of glucose to the brain and body? All I know is it’s easy to keep down (and if it comes back up, it’s not so bad either).

Raspberry Jello

Lanolin

The stuff that’s meant for other places. Yep – it works wonders for chapped noses, upper lips, and cheeks. Our favorite!

Vicks Baby Rub

Great for congested kiddos. I use the “baby” formula on my kids because the regular is too strong and the vapors bother their eyes. 

Saline Drops

Perfect for loosening crusty noses. A few drops and a kiddo can blow everything out of their nose in the morning. Helps with “bat in the cave” situations. 

Neti Pot

Dudes. Have you done this?  This is a sinus infection GAME CHANGER. We’ve even got our kids (over 10) to give it a shot. The younger ones? That’s a tough battle. 

Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup

I know. Chicken noodle soup from scratch is soooooo much better. I agree, HOWEVER, when I’m at my absolute, puke my guts out sickest (I had to have an IV last year) and I’ve had it up to HERE with gatorade, water, saltines, and toast…this is a magic elixir that makes me feel human. I keep it in my pantry at all times, just for when someone gets sick. 

What in your medicine cabinet?

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