Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Etiquette for Children and Teens, Part 1

Part one of a two-part series on helping our children to overcome poor displays of etiquette.

We’ve all seen or witnessed it: unruly and out of control children at formal functions, kids who butt into conversations, or children who have a sense of entitlement for things often undeserved.  

So how can you help your underage rule-breakers? According to Cindy Post Senning, a descendent of etiquette expert, Emily Post, use of the Golden Rule of Parenting goes a long way in helping our children to model desired behaviors.  Senning says, “Always be the kind of person you want your kids to be”.  That’s right, the “Do as I say and not as I do” rule goes out the window!  If you want properly behaved children, you must exhibit proper behavior.  Don’t worry – if bad habits have already been formed, there’s hope.

Let’s break down three common etiquette offenses and explore ways to help our young ones to learn the art of good manners.

Conversation Butting – Unless the building is on fire or someone has been injured, it’s a good idea to teach your children at a very young age to have patience, because world does not revolve around them.  The urge for children to blurt out something and demand your attention while already engaged in conversation with someone else is a bad habit to break once already formed, but consistent training will get you (and your child) to your goal.  The next time, little Mary tugs at your arm while you’re having a conversation that does not involve her or continues to call out, “Mom, mommy, momma” or some other term like, “now!”, politely say, “Dear, I would be happy to speak with you as soon as I finish my discussion with Mrs. X”.  Repeat this each time Mary decides that she wants your immediate attention; she’ll get the message eventually.

Formal Function Meltdown – Events such as weddings, funerals, and awards banquets are the most formal events that many of us will ever attend during our lifetimes – unless you’re the recipient of an invitation to a dinner at the governor’s mansion or the White House.  If you plan to take very young children to such events, be sure to pack quiet and age-appropriate activities to help them pass the time – unless you want to be the victim of a formal function meltdown.

Most parents have found that coloring books work wonders with children ages 3-7.  For slightly older children, a chapter book, crossword puzzle, or word search can provide enough entertainment ’til the end of the stuffed-shirt event.  If video games are a must, don’t forget to pack the headphones as the other guests likely won’t want to hear your child’s favorite game.  Of course, these comfort items should be saved until the attention span of your young one is nearing an end.

You know your child better than anyone else, so if rewards work for good behavior, offer one ahead of time, so that they know how high the stakes are.  Don’t hand over the award until after the desired behavior has been achieved.  Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up to provide a reward, while still getting poor behavior.  Not to mention, the behavior is likely to continue if a reward is given for without having to work for it.  This brings us to the next topic of poor etiquette…

Sense of Entitlement – As parents, it’s often difficult to not shower our children with love and material things, but if we’re not careful, we end up raising children who sincerely believe that they are entitled to pretty much anything they want.  Helping them to preface requests with “please” and respond with “thank you” will help them to understand that a certain level of respect is necessary (and honorable), whether or not they ultimately they get what they want.

During this time of year, graduates enjoy gifts the flow in from friends and family near and far.  Remind them to write Thank-You cards.  The lost are of writing thank-you notes can be resurrected amongst our children if we simply teach them that a gift is just that – a gift – and not an entitlement and a simple acknowledgement exhibits proper gift-receiving behavior.

One more note on entitlement, birthday party gifts should never be expected from invited guests.  Parties are not a tit for tat and your guests owe you (and your children) nothing other than an RSVP – even that’s debatable.

Look for part 2 of this 2-part series!

Thank-you note examples for young children (printable)

More thank-you note examples for children

Let’s chat!  Have you been offended by children behaving badly or are your children the offenders?  How have you handled situations of poor behavior?  Post questions, comments, or advice.

Togetherville: A Social Networking Site for Kids

Facebook is the social networking giant amongst teens and adults, but a new social network is brewing for the underaged crowd.  Togetherville.com is a hot new site that allows parents to sign up their 6-12 year-olds for accounts that are verified using their parents’ Facebook account.  While Togetherville is not affiliated with Facebook, it uses the networking giant’s login information to verify that users who sign up for “parent” accounts actually meet the age requirement for adulthood.  That’s not the only verification step to that grownups have to take before opening an account for children. Check out their page to read about other methods that they use to verify users.

Content

While the site allows your children to post status updates, it  also boasts games for the younger crowd.  Parking Mania, Snowboard Challenge, and Lil Dress-up Time are just some of the pre-screened titles that have been tested and deemed suitable content for your little ones.  However, it’s not all fun and games, because Togetherville also has educational applications to enhance your child’s learning experience.

Three Ways for Your Children to Connect Safely with Their Friends

Parent Network: Only those people within a parent’s social network who also have the Togetherville application – and their child(ren) – can request to connect to a child.

School Network: When parents link their child’s account to their school, kids can discover their classmates and request their parents to connect.

Friending Codes: Each kid in gets a unique secret friending code to share with others they want to connect with in Togetherville.

Privacy

Togetherville does not share information with Google or other search engines, so your child’s profile is not searchable or discoverable on the internet.  Also, since you would select only trusted Facebook friends and their children to have access to your child’s safe and secure online neighborhood, there is no possibility of anonymous users having access to your child’s profile.

For more information about Togetherville, please visit their frequently asked questions.

Are you a user of Togetherville or some other kid-friendly social networking site?  Does your child use Facebook or MySpace?

Let’s chat!

Love to alL!

CC

Valentine Presents for Children

Valentine’s Day is most widely celebrated by couples.  We plan dates, get gussied up, exchange gifts, and hire a sitter before going out to paint the town red.  But what about the children?

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day with your children?  If so, what are your family’s traditions?  I usually bake red velvet cake or cupcakes or make strawberry shortcake for dessert.  I also prepare gift bags for each child.  The items in the gift bag need not be expensive; I just fill them with small stuffed animals, candy, and other gifts (the $1 bin at Target is full of great items).  I give gifts to the children, because I want them to know that they are also my Valentines.

But I have a dilemma this year: whether or not to continue giving them gifts, and if so, what?  They are now teens and tweens, so the desserts, stuffed animals and special Valentine’s trinkets don’t have the same effect.  I’ve thought about buying a small token, such as bracelets or flowers for the girls and cologne for boys.  Or maybe even books for all of them.  I’m at a loss, but I want to do something that will have a lasting impact. 

So, here’s the thing that makes the most sense.  Writing love letters to each of them.  Yes, love letters.  Something that they can cherish for a lifetime.  Something that I would make with lots of love.  Something that they can go back and read when life’s harsh realities gets them down in the dumps.

Whatever it is that I choose, I have less than two full days to make it happen.

Share your ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day with children.

Love to all!

CC

Eight Tips to Protect Your Children Online

Connecting with friends and family, playing online games, and sharing photos are some of the things that make the internet so attractive.  But this medium that many of us use for entertainment purposes is ripe for criminals who have something sinister in mind for our children.  Before letting your child enter the wild, wild west world wide web, here are a few tips to help keep them safe.

Talk to your children about internet safety and your expectations regarding what information they’re allowed to share and access.  Tell them that many things and people online are not what or who they seem to be.  Arming them with this information will help them to make good choices and surf safely.

Set rules and consequences.  This is the step that will be hardest for most families; however, it is the most important.  Once you communicate your internet usage expectations to your child, inform them that internet access will be restricted if they participate in unsafe activities online.

Become their online friend.  If your child has a social networking profile, become their friend – not for purposes of stalking them, but to provide an added level of protection. Special note about Facebook profiles: Facebook offers special profile protection for subscribers who are under age 18.  Make sure your child is honest in submitting their age during the account set-up process.  Birth date, month, and year can be kept private, but are necessary for Facebook to set up age-appropriate settings.

Use parental controls software.  Windows Vista and Windows 7 have built-in parental controls that allow you to select content appropriate for your child to view.  You may choose to deny access to certain game ratings, downloads, or entire websites altogether (Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, or any other site of your choice).  Another great option is the ability to set time limits by the day and hour. E.g., blocking log-in access during overnight hours.

Log onto NetSmartz.org.  Their mission: “NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC) that provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on- and offline.  The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement.  With resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates”.  The goals of NetSmartz are to “Educate children on how to recognize potential Internet risks; Engage children and adults in a two-way conversation about on- and offline risks; and Empower children to help prevent themselves from being exploited and to report victimization to a trusted adult“.

Set up Zoobuh email accounts for young children.  I opened an account for my now-11-year-old who wanted to communicate with far away friends and family via email.  Parental controls are the best I’ve seen for most kid-safe software on the market.  Zoobuh allows parents to create “safe sender” lists, add contacts and allow your children to send only to those people, reject email links and attachments, and restrict times and places.  You may also choose how to handle messages that are rejected from your child’s email account: send them directly to the parents trash folder or inbox for review.  Fee: $12/year per account.

Install adequate anti-virus software.  There are many to choose from, but AVG is a trusted anti-virus software that we use at home and work (my husband owns an IT company and installs this product for home and business clients).  Try the free version.  With safe surfing habits (not clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources and visiting risky sites), you may find that you won’t need to upgrade to the paid version.  AVG is great in that it blocks many pop-ups and unsafe sites from loading as well as prevents harmful programs from auto-installing and stealing your personal information or targeting your child’s computer to upload inappropriate content.

Keep the computer in a common area of the house.  This alone will deter many children from visiting unsafe sites.  Your presence and influence go a`long way keeping your children safe.

Other Resources

ConnectSafely.org

National Crime Prevention Councilwww.McGruff.org

Safekids.com

Safeteens.com

Post now and share your tips for keeping children safe online.

Love to all!

CC

How Do You Prepare for Snow Days?

As the Midwest plans for another snowstorm, children and adults take the prediction of frozen precipitation differently.  The younger crowd looks forward to a day off from school, while the older bunch tends to wonder about how or if they’ll commute to work in a treacherous, wintry mess. 

The night before a storm, children all over town use at least one of the following rituals to brew up a day off from readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic:

  • Sleeping at the foot of the bed, with pajamas inside out and backwards (there’s a Facebook page for this)
  • Flushing ice cubes down a toilet
  • Sleeping with spoons under their pillows (see inside out PJ’s FB page if you want to “Like” this)
  • Freezing white crayons then placing it under tbeir pillow before going to bed for the night
  • Doing snow dances

All of these traditions are supposed to lead to a day of sledding, building snowmen and forts, making snow angels, and lobbing snowballs at both willing and unwilling targets.  For those who aren’t into winter sports, there is video-gaming, movie-watching, or sleeping on the agenda.

Mom and dad’s snow day plans probably aren’t as carefree.  While kids are thinking of fun, mom and dad may be stocking up on grocery items, rounding up shovels and salt, restocking firewood, and filling up their gas tanks before what is not-so-affectionately now known as “white death”.  I admit that I did these things, but now that I’m done, bring onthe snow!

Oh, I don’t have a sled yet!  Gotta go!

Let’s chat!  How do you prepare for and spend snow days?

Love to all!

CC

Family Dinner

How many times per week does your family have dinner together?  With busy work and activity schedules, it can be difficult to sit face-to-face with everyone each night of the week.  However, having dinner with your family creates memories that can last a lifetime. 

I’m the super silly one in my house, so antics like kicking my husband (gently) under the table, making funny faces, and saying long prayers while everyone eagerly waits to dive into dinner lightens the mood for an event that could sometimes seem too formal for children.

I love having dinner with my family, because it allows us to spend undivided time together to discuss what’s on our minds, and pray together.  Speaking of praying, one tradition that we established is for one person at the table to give thanks, offer praises, and pray for the needs of our family as well as those of others.  We work our way around the table until we begin the rotation again six days later (we’re a family of six).  Another tradition that we tried was to for each person present to compliment someone else at the table.  Initially, we tried to do that for every person every night.  Needless to say with six people having to compliment five other people each night, dinner was cold by the time we were done.

How to Make Meals Enjoyable

  • Ask about each other’s day
  • Get input from each member of the family for meal plans
  • Ignore the telephone and turn off the television
  • Keep your meals simple and save the multi-course meals for the holidays
  • Save serious topics of discussion for family meetings
  • Set mood music; in our house, it’s Christian music

Family meals are believed to positively impact your children’s grades, bring about lower levels of stress, instill better table manners, and encouraghealthy eating habits.  So why not begin the tradition of family meals in your household today?

Let’s chat!

Love to all!

CC

Do Your Children Have Chores?

I often hear parents grumble about the abundance of chores around the house, but am astounded at how many families don’t require children to do chores. 

Now, I didn’t have children, so that I could have little maids and chefs running around.  I had them, because my maternal instinct told me that it was my primary purpose in life.  Nothing else I accomplish will ever rate higher than being a mom.  That said, children a part of a family unit and where I’m from, each family member chips in to keep the household running.

The children’s television show Barney made cleaning up popular for the young crowd with the annoying, yet highly effective, Clean Up song.  This song inspired the preschool and elementary crowd to “do your share” of cleaning up after themselves. 

Teaching children to clean up after themselves shouldn’t be considered punishment.  It’s simply instilling responsibility and providing skills that will follow them for a lifetime.

When I was in grade school, teachers rewarded students who had clean workspaces.  The same held true for summer camp where we earned “golden nuggets” (spray painted rocks) for working with our fellow campers to ensure that our cabins were clean.  In college, we had weekly room inspections.  Failure to regularly pass room inspection was punishable by eviction from the dorms.  Ouch!  In places of employment, clean workspaces help keep us organized and productive.

Helpful strategies for achieving chore success:

  • Post a chore chart in the heart of the house (family room, kitchen, etc.) and meet with your chidren often to discuss their roles in completing household chores.  Put your chores on the schedule as well, so that they can see that you, too, play a vital role in keeping the house clean. 
  • Do not complete your child’s chores if they decide to throw a tantrum.  Doing so will send the wrong message.  Instead, remind them that their help benefits the entire family; remember to praise them along the way and immediately after.
  • Give your children age-appropriate chores.  Don’t expect a 5 year-old to make a perfect and neat bed.  Instead, praise them for doing their best.  In time, they will perfect the art of making a bed to your liking.  Maybe.

Need help determining age-appropriate chores?  Annie Stewart of WebMD suggests the following:

Chores for children ages 2 to 3

  • Put toys away.
  • Put clothes in hamper.

Chores for children ages 4 to 5

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Make own bed.
  • Fix bowl of cereal.

Chores for children ages 6 to 7

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Sort laundry.
  • Help make and pack lunch.
  • Keep bedroom tidy.
  • Pour own drinks.

Chores for children ages 8 to 9

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Put away groceries.
  • Vacuum.
  • Make own snacks.
  • Wash table after meals.
  • Put away own laundry.
  • Make own breakfast.
  • Cook simple foods, such as toast.

Chores for children ages 10 and older.

Any of the above chores, plus:

  • Unload dishwasher.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Clean bathroom.
  • Wash windows.
  • Cook simple meal with supervision.
  • Iron clothes.
  • Do laundry.
  • Mow lawn.
  • Change bed.

Click here for a full list.

Remember to balance the amount and difficulty of chores with other obligations, such as homework, extracurricular activities, work (for teens), social needs, and family activities.  Revisit the chore schedule periodically to determine whether or not it is effective.  Talk to your children to get their input, tweak the schedule, when necessary, and be sure to announce any changes during your family meeting. 

Do your children have chores?  If so, are tantrums, tears, and headaches part of the routine?  How do you overcome those challenges?

Let’s chat! 

Love to all!

CC

Positive News Reports

“If it bleeds it leads.”  I get it, some people thrive on death, drama, and crime, but not all of us.  I’d love to be able to watch news reports without having to switch to another channel, because one of my children walks into the room.  Besides, I want to hear good news…a lot of good news!

So, I hunted for web sites that deliver just what I crave – good news.  The people behind Happy News find good news stories, from their own sources as well as others, and put them into one convenient place.  One of yesterday’s headlines was “School Finds 340-Year Old Bible“.  Credit to CNN for this story; now if only they could seek more feel-good news and report it, report it, report it.  Enough of the Nancy Grace doom and gloom!

How about another great story where University of Pennsylvania students distributed coats to needy children?  Operation Warm is an organization that reaches out to children in 26 states in conjunction with a wide range of organizations that have the ability to reach deep into some of the country’s neediest communities.  Good news stories aren’t just for entertainment purposes, they serve to inform.  Maybe this story will help if you have (or know of) a child in need of a warm coat.  Or, maybe it will incite you to make good on your promise to do more for your neighbors.

It’s true, good news happens around the globe every day.  Unfortunately, most news outlets don’t report it often and at length.  If I were to sponsor a news broadcast, I don’t think I’d want my product advertisement to follow a report of the lastest bloodbath.  Imagine it: “This gory, bloody message was brought to you by Random Mom!”.  I don’t think so…

Maybe the lack of good and wholesome programming is the reason why I watch a ton of home improvement shows.  The content is great, the commercials are relevant, and the programming is kid-friendly without being Nick Jr News-ish.

If Happy News begins televising their reports, I am SO there!

Chime in with your thoughts.

Love to all!

CC

Are Day Jobs a Thing of the Past?

So much for working 9-5 each day.  Advances in technology make it easier than ever to work outside of the office.  But is that a good thing?

My corporate job comes with many great perks, such as the ability to work from home.  However, along with the perk of being able to work at home comes the expectation that I am available to work days, evenings, weekends, vacations, and holidays.  Sadly, I don’t feel singled out, because these same expectations hold true for those who commute to the office each day.

Since when is it OK for companies to expect  workers to be available around the clock 365 days of the year?  Sure, my company offers paid time off (PTO), holidays, and other kinds of paid leave, but what about their policy regarding allowing employees to take uninterrupted time off work to refresh our minds, souls, and bodies?  Not much relaxation and rejuvination can happen when someone shoots off an email at an ungodly hour and expects an expedient response.

What about “leave” is so hard to understand?  Children get the concept, but unfortunately for them, that trend is going away, thus their definition of time off will inevitably evolve.  Christmas and spring breaks bring about required reading and packets of seemingly endless homework.  In addition, school districts are begining to allow teachers to conduct class remotely when schools are closed.  So much for good ol’ snow days filled with enjoying movies and cocoa, shoveling, sledding, snowball fights, making snow angels and snowmen.  Children are learning that time off for relaxation and rejuvination is a bad thing, a lazy thing.  And that, to me, is a bad idea.

How’s your job?  Is there an expectation that you’ll to respond to messages late at night, thumb through text messages on your cell phone, and type reports as soon as you get home from your office while juggling kids homework and making dinner?

Is work-life balance even possible?  Susan Davis, author of five books, about health, well-being, education, and business doesn’t believe it is.  In her article, The Myth of Work-Life Balance, she writes, “researchers have found, American workers are spending more and more time on work, and less and less time on life — to an understandably detrimental effect”. 

Susan offers the following “Takeaway Tips” that help her strive for balance.

Figure out the foundation: In order to be inspired and productive in my work life, as well as clear and kind with my family, I need good exercise, deep sleep, and time for reflection. Other people might need massages, time with friends, six meals a day, protein drinks, regular knitting sessions, weekly poker games, or afternoon naps. What do you need to feel balanced, energized and productive?

Fine-tune the details: On some days I can’t get off first base without hearing Bill Withers’ version of Use Me. (Not a healthy emotional theme, I know, but the rhythm moves me.) Other days I can’t hit my stride unless I spend a few minutes outside, watching the clouds and listening to the hens. And there’s many a day when I can’t gather my thoughts without a cup of very strong, very hot coffee—in a the grey earthenware mug that was made by a potter in my hometown. The point? Identify what you need in the moment and try to provide it for yourself.

Go for what you need: I know some of you are reading this and thinking, “I have no time.” I have no time either — unless I understand that taking care of myself (that’s my body, my mind, and my spirit, by the way) allows me to work better, live better, and feel better. In other words, self care doesn’t take away from our work and life; it enhances it.

Do you have any self-care routines that help you survive the nearly seamless divide between work and life?  Let’s talk!

Love to all!

CC

The Hot Food Blues

I am truly honored and blessed to be able to cook for my family, so please don’t take this post the wrong way. I struggle with finding the desire to cook a hot meal for my family each night. I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t have the gift of culinary creativity or it’s because I am not confident about being able to appeal to the palates of six people with different tastes. If I hear, “Mom, I stopped eating that months ago” one more time, I may just quit my chef job!

Who knows? Maybe I have underlying issues that keep me from wanting to walk over to the stove each night. Whatever the reason, I seldom look forward to making dinner.

I’ve tried creating monthly meal plans, then I chopped those plans down to just two weeks. All the planning in the world won’t help me to whip up one key entree, the desire to actually cook what’s on the list. Sometimes, I procrastinate so much, I end up in a fast-food drive-thru or online submitting a to-go order at one of our favorite full-service restaurants. The lowest of low is when I tell everyone that tonight’s dinner will be a free-for-all. A FFA is pretty much how it sounds: everything is a possible meal, so grab a bowl, spoon, and milk. Don’t want that? It’s OK. Just open a can of something. Another handy dandy alternative, a couple slices of bread with whatever your heart desires.

Is there a secret to finding motivation to put a hot meal on the table each night? If so, please share!

Love to all!

CC