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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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

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lunchbox Black Bean Dip

- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup mild salsa
- 1 clove garlic, chopped (can substitute a sprinkle of garlic powder)
- 2 tbsp. sour cream
- 2 tbsp. chopped cilantro (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese
Mix first 6 ingredients in food processor. Process until smooth. Spoon a few tablespoons of teh dip into a small lunch box container, top with cheese. Pack alongside pita chips of fresh veggies for dipping.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Weekly Lunch & Snack Menu

One thing we'll all have to do at some point, whether it start in preschool or elementary school is begin packing our kid's lunches and/or snacks. Unless of course your child's school is a Food Revolution school and offers healthy, delicious food in the cafeteria every single day (Brookey's does, but she's not quite sold on it yet)! But for most of us, we'll be packing at least a few lunches a week for the kids. When you first start doing this, it's an added step at night and if you're not organized, frankly it can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you have more than one child to pack for! At that point, you'll be tempted to throw a Lunchable in their lunch pail and call it night. I'm sure you know how I feel about that :)

Since I am packing both a lunch and a snack for Brooke almost every day, I decided to provide you, from time to time, with my weekly list of what I'm packing. I just type it up on my computer every Sunday and each night when its lunch-packing time, I just pull up the document and start packing! I'm pretty much brain dead after 6pm, so this is a great help to me :) I won't post the list every single week, because I want to give you new ideas and I don't pack a "new idea" every single day--I repeat a lot!

It's easy to run out of ideas for healthy lunches and snacks, so I hope my lists will help give you some ideas. I keep it SIMPLE. Nothing fancy. I don't use cookie cutters and cut heart and flower sandwiches every day [although I do on special occasions like Valentine's Day!] I don't tend to use off-the-wall ingredients that are hard to find. You won't see a whole lot of sandwiches because Brooke is not really a sandwich type. And frankly, kids get tired of sandwiches very quickly. We buy milk from the school so I don't have to worry about it going bad in her lunch box. She also has a water bottle and drinks water with her snack. Enjoy!

Weekly Lunch & Snack Menu

Snack: Clif Kid Z-Bar (graham cracker flavor), grapes
Lunch: Half of a bean burrito (refried beans and shredded cheese rolled in a whole wheat tortilla), apple slices, cookie

Snack: Cheese cubes, multi-grain crackers, berries
Lunch-Lasagna (leftover from dinner), yogurt, cookie

Snack: Clif Kid Z-Bar (chocolate chip flavor), strawberries
Lunch: "Antipasto Platter"--Multi-grain crackers, string cheese, 2 slices lunch meat (turkey, rolled up), black olives, cucumber slices, grapes

Snack: Cheese cubes, nectarine
Lunch: Quesidilla, apple slices, mini-prezels

Snack: Yogurt, banana
Lunch: Salami and Turkey sandwich on a soft whole wheat roll, Goldfish, berries

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nap Transitions: Two Naps to One

At some point after your baby (now toddler) turns one, they will begin the process of going from two naps a day (morning & afternoon) to just one nap. As Will approached 16 months, I found myself really looking forward to this. The larger chunk of time in the afternoon is nice and I didn't have to always worry about him being home for naps twice a day.

Some toddlers are ready to drop the morning nap sooner than others. Very rarely are they ready to drop the morning nap before 12 months. Likewise, very rarely are toddlers over 22'ish months still taking a morning nap. Here are some signs that your little one might be ready to drop a nap:

- Trouble falling asleep for the morning nap. This happens because they are now able to stay awake for longer periods of time so they're not tired.

- Morning nap shortens (30-45 minutes), but they still take a good afternoon nap. They can still fall asleep for the morning nap, but they're not tired enough to sleep for a long period of time.

- Morning nap lengthens and afternoon nap shortens. This happened with Will. He was a creature of habit and would always be able to fall asleep for his scheduled 9am nap. But then he'd end up sleeping too much for the morning nap and wasn't tired for his scheduled afternoon nap.

Once you think they're ready (or YOU'RE ready) to drop the morning nap there are a variety of ways you can go about it. The easiest is cold-turkey. When going cold-turkey, you basically split the difference between the morning and afternoon nap, and that will be their new nap time--for the time being. So for instance, if their morning nap was at 9am and their afternoon nap was at 2pm, start with their new nap time being around 11:30. As they get used to this nap time, you can slowly push out, so you get your desired time. For most parents, they like nap time to start around noon or 1pm.

Here are some common "troubleshooting" questions and answers when dropping the AM nap:

I dropped the AM nap, but now my baby is only sleeping 1 1/2 hours for his nap. I thought the nap was supposed to get longer when he went from two naps to one.

This is temporary as your child adjusts to the new sleep schedule. Give it a week or two and it should work itself out. In the meantime, when he wakes (as long as he's not screaming), let him play independently in his crib for a little while, without any stimulation. Then push up his bedtime about an hour so he can make up for the lost sleep time. Gradually, he should lengthen his afternoon nap to somewhere between 2-3 hours.

I am trying to drop the AM nap cold-turkey, but my baby gets soooo tired and fussy around 10:00am. I just want to put him to bed!

This is very common. He's tired!! Again, he's trying to adjust to the new schedule. You could do one of two things. Push it out as long as you can (say, 10:30am) and make that his nap time. Then over the next two weeks, as he gets used to that nap time, push it later by 15-30 minute increments every few days until you get to your desired nap time.

The next thing you could do is what I did with Will--plan activities!!! Be sure you are out of the house and active in the morning, especially around the time he is used to taking the morning nap. For us, we did swimming lessons in the morning and we were out of the house from about 10:30-12:00. This helped tremendously, because he wasn't thinking about napping, he was thinking about swimming! So go to a class, the park, to the zoo, for a run in the jogging stroller, whatever it takes to get you guys out of the house and not thinking about sleeping!

Now that my baby is taking one nap, she wakes up in the afternoon earlier than she used to. She's exhausted and ready for bed at 5pm!

When Will was in the process of dropping the AM nap, he went down at 11am and slept until about 1pm...which was way earlier than he was used to waking up in the afternoon. So by 5 or 5:30pm, he was exhausted. Know that nap-dropping is a process that kids have to get used to. Put her to bed at 5:00 or 5:30pm so she can make up for the lost sleep during the day.When we did this with Will, he still slept until his regular wake time in the morning, 6:30. Know this is just temporary.

Remember, just because they are dropping a nap, doesn't mean their sleep-need amounts are necessarily changing. If you toddler has been taking two 1 1/2 hour naps and sleeping 11 hours at night (14 total hours a day), they should still continue to sleep a total of 14 hours a day. You can achieve this by 1) Automatically: On their own, they should lengthen their nap from two 1 1/2 hour naps to one (approx) 3 hour nap or 2) Push up their bedtime.

My baby sleeps really well for her morning nap but refuses to go down for the afternoon nap. Does that mean she's ready to drop a nap?

Most likely, yes. If baby is sleeping like a rock for the morning nap, it's a little more tricky than the converse, where they sleep well in the afternoon and refuse the AM nap. To begin the weaning process, you will need to either do a cold-turkey approach and keep her awake until your desired nap time, or do a slower weaning process.

To do the weaning-style approach, you can still put her down at her regular morning nap time, but you will have to wake her up so her morning nap shortens and she'll still be ready to take her afternoon nap. Wake in 15-30 minute increments every few days, until baby is only sleeping about 30 minutes for the morning nap. For example, if she typically naps for 1 1/2 hours, wake her for a few days at the hour mark. Then the next few days, wake her at the 45 minute mark, etc., until shes only sleeping about 30 minutes.Frankly, this process is a little annoying for me and I feel bad waking a baby after only 30 minutes of sleep. But it's a means to an end. I prefer the method of planning activities and just trying to keep them up longer--the "cold turkey" approach.

Again, keep in mind that nap-dropping is a process. Baby may experience short naps, fussiness, restless sleep and other minor problems during this process. But if your baby has typically been a good napper, these problems should work themselves out in about 1-2 weeks. Be patient!