Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Best Part, Worst Part

We just started a new little ritual at our dinner table that has turned out to be a great success. I have to caveat this by saying this was TOTALLY not my idea. I stole it from one of my friends who is a mother of 4 and takes care of all of her kids while her husband serves in Afghanistan 10 months out of the year. She is the true definition of Super Mom and much more amazing and innovative than I will ever be.

I am a big fan of everyone sitting around the dinner table and engaging in conversation in that Norman Rockwell-esque "family togetherness" time. I understand that family schedules don't always work out to have this special time every night...parents work late, kids have early bedtimes, soccer, ballet, whatever the case may be. However, AT LEAST 2 nights out of the week should be spent together at a family dinner. And note that this "family time" does not always have to mean sitting for an hour debating world issues. It can just be a 10 minute ritual of all coming together as a family over a pizza.

That being said, we have been doing a family dinner almost every single night, with the exception of some weekend nights when we put the kids to bed and Scott and I enjoy dinner alone. As Brooke as gotten older, she's gotten more into the "eat and run" mentality. She has better things to do, according to her :) So when I heard about Best Part, Worst Part I thought I would give it a try as a means to keep her at the table.

The concept is simple. You just go around the table and everyone tells what the best part of their day was. Then, they tell what the worst part was. Sounds simple and even juvenile, but it has turned out to be a hit!!

Number One, it gets us all talking. It completely gets you out of this conversation,

"So, Brooke how was your day at school?"
"What did you do today?"
"So you just sat in class at stared at the walls all day?"

Now that we do Best Part, Worst Part, I am hearing all sorts of funny stories about what happens at school and what she did all day. MUCH better than, "Nothing."

Number Two, it gets you and your spouse talking! I never know what to ask about Scott's day. Soooo.....what did you do today? Like I would really understand anyway! But by hearing the best part and worst part, it just makes it easier to talk about things that went on during the day.

Number Three, it's great for little ones because you just call it a "game." Let's play Best Part, Worst Part!! Little ones will do almost ANYthing if it's called a "game."

Last, I think it has helped us all be very grateful for what we have. Once we go over the "worst parts," we realize that if someone cutting me off on the freeway or spilling my coffee on my skirt was the WORST part of my day...wow, how lucky am I!?

All in all, this has been a huge hit at dinnertime and Brooke now stays at the table long enough to talk about her day. In fact, a couple of days ago I forgot to "play" the game and Brooke was reminded me, "WAIT!! We have to play Best Part, Worst Part!" I love it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why Don't You Try That Again?

I think there are two child-traits that annoy me the most...

#1-Whining: Just for the simple fact that it's nails-on-the-chalkboard annoying to me. I don't know a child who doesn't or hasn't whined in their life. Some kids are worse than others and this mostly has to do with how much parents are willing to correct the behavior properly.

#2-Ungratefulness. "Kids today" have so freakin much. It's unreal. I remember having to put clothes on layaway because we couldn't afford to pay the whole $17.99 all at once. After the 2-4 weeks were up and we had saved enough, we went to pick up item. Talk about being grateful! I had never been so happy in my life! Fast-forward 30 years and I find myself buying (or trying really hard NOT to buy) the kids clothes every time I am within a 10 mile radius of Gymboree. The automatic "gratefulness" lesson isn't built into the process these days. We have to teach our kids to be grateful to help them lead a life of thanksgiving rather than believing life always "owes" them something.

The second part of ungratefulness is the appreciation of what others do for you--most notably you parents!! A few months ago Brooke started this whole thing where she would say, "Give me my..." (milk, juice, jacket, etc). I am more than happy to do things for my kids, but I am not a slave. And I am definitely not a slave to someone who is perfectly capable of 1) Getting things herself and 2) Asking politely when needed.

I am very happy to report that I found a simple solution to both #1 and #2 that has almost eliminated both problems completely. Of course, teaching your kids to live a life of intrinsic thankfulness and gratefulness is not something that happens overnight.That is something that you have to teach and practice every day. But I found a solution to cut the immediate whining and impolite/ungrateful behavior--short term.

It was so simple: When whining or ungrateful behavior occurred all I would say was, "Why don't you try that again in 5 minutes?" Then I would set a timer and make her wait for whatever she wanted or was whining about. I find that if you just say, "Stop whining. Say that again in a normal voice" there is really not enough "sting" to change the behavior. All they have to do is repeat what they just said in a normal voice (or appropriately) and they get what they want. That is not a punishment! But making them WAIT, even if just for a few minutes, gives them time to think and doesn't give them the immediate gratification they're looking for. Kids haaaate to wait!!!

Oh, it worked like a charm! After two times, I pretty much had whining and (certain) impolite behaviors nipped in the bud. It was one of those parenting moments where I really wished I could give myself a high-five. Not all parenting "tricks" work. This one sure did! Just remember to stay consistent and use the same phrase every time the behavior occurs. You'll love it!! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Church Behavior

Our family has been going to church religiously (tee, hee!) since January of this year. I look back at the timing of our decision--4 year old and a 10 month old in tow--I wonder why we choose THAT particular time. Who knows, maybe it was some sort of "calling" but I couldn't be happier with our decision.

For me, it doesn't really really matter what age your child(ren) are. No time to go to church with kids is ideal, especially when your church doesn't have a nursery--ours doesn't. It's always going to take some work, effort and planning. So if you decide to make church a part of your life, just go for it! Don't keep waiting thinking things will get easier. I look around our church and see people with their 3, 4, 5, 6 kids all lined up in the pew, I see many couples with newborns + toddlers in tow....for crying out loud, I see 95 year olds that look like they're living their last day on earth! Surely, I can manage with two semi-well behaved rascals....right?

The first day we decided to attend church, we spent the whole service (our old church's service was over 2 hours long) wrestling a 20lb wailing little beast. Walking inside, outside, anywhere to keep him away from pretty much everyone in the entire congregation so they wouldn't be annoyed with his antics. I was sweating after the last "amen." And please don't ask me what the pastor preached about. I was just saying prayers that he'd hurry and wrap it up!

Fast-forward to this week. I still have a beast, although he's about 8 lbs heavier now! But now he's able to sit for the entire first half of the Mass--about 30 minutes--without any squirming, wailing or other annoying antics that would lend us evil-eye looks from the parishioners. His age certainly isn't making it any easier--with each passing day, he's becoming more physical and active. So why is he "easier" to handle now than 9 months ago when he wasn't even walking?! The answer? Routine. He's used to it. He knows the drill and he's learned to sit--thank you Blanket Time!

Now the next 30 minutes of church is a different story. That's his breaking point. I believe that at 18 months, 30-40 minutes is about all you can expect your child to sit still without getting restless. I am completely happy with 30 minutes. At about age 3, that time will increase and an hour can be expected. If it seems overwhelming to have a 3 year old sit in one place for an entire hour with no true entertainment except for maybe a semi-decent church choir, I can tell you it is most likely possible--if you want to it be.

I will never forget how completely FLOORED I was when I went to Mass with Brooke's preschool class (3 and 4 year olds) and they were all lined up in the pew, quiet as mice for the entire hour. Did they fidget a little? Yes. Did they look around like they were bored out of their minds? Yes. Did a lot of them have to get up and go potty? Yes. But there was no screaming, no tantrums, no talking...and no one fell asleep! I was in awe of those 38 preschoolers! I was even more in awe of the teachers. How DO they get them to do that??! So don't think it's impossible.

Now you might ask why must your child endure an hour (or less, depending on the age) of sitting around "listening" to something they are not developmentally ready to understand? I will write a whole other blog someday about helping little ones get something beneficial out of church messages, but if nothing else, church teaches them one thing plain and simple: obedience. Much like blanket time. Church is just another setting they get used to staying where they are told. I know this sounds pretty harsh and aren't they supposed to ENJOY church and get something out of it? YES! That's definitely possible when they are about 3. Before that, it's pure and simple obedience. That's what they are getting out of it.

The importance for a child to be able to sit in one place for a long period of time has never been so apparent to me than over the past month as Brooke started Kindergarten. I don't know how much we all remember about Kindergarten back in our day, but I remember nap time, snacks and lots of playing outside with tricycles. A lot has changed. Kids are being asked to sit for long periods of time, even in Kindergarten, writing, listening and participating. After all, they need to be reading at the end of Kindergarten now! Even if kids have had the preschool experience, Kindergarten is a whole different ball game.

As they progress through the grades, the sitting and listening part gets even longer, with college being the pinnacle. Think about how many lecture halls you've endured...just sitting....and listening. No, it's not always fun. It's a skill. It's a skill that can be developed from a very young age. Going to church and blanket time are great ways to start developing this skill. Is it easy? Nope! I won't lie. But how many times have I said, who told you parenting was easy???

I have some tips of taking toddlers to church below. With kids 3 and up my expectations are much higher as they are now emotionally and developmentally ready to get something out of church. It's still about obedience, but at age 3+ church needs to become more about the "why" we go to church, too. More on that later.

Here are some tips. Good luck! I'll be saying prayers for you :)

Church Tips of Toddlers (6 months to 3 years)

1. Food/Snacks. Hands down, the biggest savior (no pun intended). Our church has a no eating policy that I choose to disregard because at this age, it's all about distraction. :) And common sense here, please! We were at church the other day and some lady had brought two bags of potato chips for her kids to eat....is there anything louder than a rustling potato chip bag?! Not to mention greasy. I know we all love a greasy hymnal! Really, people!

2. Sit close to the back, for an easy exit. And definitely sit on the aisle!

3. Be consistent. If you just go at Christmas and Easter, don't expect your child to behave. They need routine to get used to things by going each week.

4. Have a church-only bag of 2-3 toys or books. I'm not big on bringing the whole toy box to church. It can be loud, distracting and messy. Just pick a couple of things you know your child will enjoy and pack them into a bag or purse. Let them only play with these things during church or rotate the toys each week so the novelty doesn't wear off.

5. Make the most of the music! Most kids love music. Sing, dance and sway with them during songs.

6. Start with low expectations and work your way up. Just like with blanket time, start with getting your child to sit for 5 minutes. When he's done that, expect 10 minutes, and so on.

7. Try to pick a service that isn't during nap time. This can be hard especially with small churches with only one service, but it always works better when your child is well-rested.

8. Don't get discouraged! It's just like with sleep training--it won't get easier unless you stick with it!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Weekly Lunch & Snack Menu

Here's what we have planned this week. After this week, we're planning on rotating in one hot lunch per week.

Also, I started noticing they have these really delicious "dwarf" apples at the store. They come in red and green and they are about half the size of a regular apple. I love packing these whole and not worrying about cutting up the apple and sprinkling on orange juice to prevent browning. Anything that saves time!

We do water with the snack and she buys milk for lunch.

Weekly Lunch & Snack Menu


Snack: Fresh blueberries & Yogurt
Lunch: Pasta salad (corkscrew pasta, olives, red & green bell peppers tossed with Italian dressing and McCormick Salad Supreme), Hershey's Kiss (gasp!)

Snack: Grapes, goldfish crackers
Lunch: Lunchbox Black Bean Dip (see recipe), pita chips, strawberries

Snack: Unsweetened applesauce
Lunch: Whole wheat crackers layered with cream cheese, sprinkle of shredded cheddar-jack and ham, apple

Snack: Baby Bel cheese, dried cranberries (Craisins)
Lunch: Rice and grilled chicken breast (leftover over from the night before) drizzled with teriyaki sauce, cookie or leftover slice of cake or some other sweet goodie