All posts tagged balance and happiness

Getting The Kids Involved

Getting the Kids Involved Means Letting them Participate 

work is worthIt sounds super obvious to most parents that if you want kids to follow a daily routine, they have to help create it and then feel supported as they practice mastering the routine on their own. Well, that’s not always how things play out. We often “let” the kids participate when it’s convenient for us or when they are doing things “right” but as soon as they fall behind, or don’t do things exactly the way we want them, we step in and muddle everything up. Creating, executing and mastering routines takes time and while the kids are practicing, life happens. But if we can shift our thinking, if we can let the routine lead the day, we’ll find that children can take on more responsibility, become less dependent on us for everything and we can all enjoy that time between activities vs. rushing and hurrying things along.

What does this mean? It means, if your child is supposed to pack a backpack for school, you wont jump in and do it as the clock starts ticking louder and louder. And so, yes, you’ll be late. Yes, your kid will wear PJ’s to school. Yes, they won’t have a lunch if they don’t feel like making one. Once you learn to let go, the child will know you trust they can do it and that’s when the magic happens. Obviously, allowing a kid to go to school hungry because they forgot their lunch or left their homework behind, is a hard lesson to learn! Most parents think they just can’t let that happen. But they soon find out they can and it only happens once or twice.

IMG_6573Over time, once your children realize you’re going about the routine and that you trust them to manage on their own, they begin to master tasks that lead to confidence and capability. After the peaceful, relaxed and orderly routine is established, you’ll never look back!

Are you ready for a routine?

Kids CAN Do So Much! With a solid routine and less interference, kids of all ages CAN and WILL:

  • get dressed
  • make lunches
  • bring a backpack
  • get ready for bed quickly
  • wake up for school on time
  • finish homework
  • brush their teeth
  • feed the pets
  • and so much more!

Head’s Up! It’ll be bumpy for just a short while. Once you master the routine, it’ll get smoother and sweeter. In the beginning, you’ll have to focus on these few things:

kid workPatience. Don’t step in, even if you’re late.

Correcting. If a kid packs three granola bars for his lunch, hey it’s a start. It’ll get better- don’t get caught up in the little stuff.

Let go. You’ll just have to sacrifice a few events (like bball practice or dinner out) in order to learn the routine.

Once it’s in place, it’ll be just fine.
Trust the kids. Just trust them. They will find a way if you’re not there doing everything for them.

Siblings Part 3: Tips To Bring More Joy

stop the fighting

Watching your kids play nicely together, hearing a shared giggle, watching a potential fight averted, because of some savvy negotiating between your 6 and 8 year old is just about every parent’s idea of a dream come true. But raising kids who truly enjoy each other is a process that takes years. It’s important that parents recognize that building on small moments, bringing a child’s awareness to the moments that “work” with a sometimes pesky sibling, providing situations in which kids can practice solving problems around play, will go a long way in creating sibling relationships that will stay strong and loving for years to come.

Personally, I made the decision when my kids were young, that if I could choose between kids who got along between 2 – 18 and kids who were close from 18 to 80, my choice would be the later. One of the major trip ups for parents around kids getting along when they are young, is the belief that we parents are responsible for those relationships. Maybe if we did more of one thing or less of another, we could guarantee our kids would be each other’s best friends for life – pinky swear. But nothing could be further from the truth. Take a page from your adult experience and trust that by following these easy but powerful 10 tips, you will indeed raise kids who truly enjoy each other’s company more with each passing year. And yes, you will witness this before they leave home.

appreciate

1. Appreciations: Just like suggesting to someone who has a head ache that they drink water, before they run to the doctor for an MRI, using appreciations as a way to combat sibling squabbles is often overlooked because of it’s simplicity. But as a mom who raised 5 kids in a blended family dynamic, this was the key to my kids not only enjoying life together under one roof, but the reason the 5 of them are still as thick as thieves as young adults.

2. Adler’s Golden Rule: “ I use Adler’s “see with their eyes, hear with their ears and feel with their heart” to help my children understand a sibling they are struggling with. Inevitably, there is a moment of empathy and awareness, which translates into a more relaxed and accepting dynamic. This has become the foundation for conversations when one sibling is struggling with another’s choice of behavior.” Mother of 4 children, ages 7 – 16.

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

3. No Blood – No Break – No Foul: “I stay out of every single squabble that doesn’t include blood or break. And yes, it’s tough. Especially in public. It’s easy for parents to get pulled into the tussle and as soon as I’m there, I can see the entire dynamic change. It’s no longer an opportunity for my kids to work together to solve the problem, it’s about me trying to decide who needs to change or do something different and the relationship between the kids takes a psychic hit. I would say, that at this point, my kids spend less than 10% of their time squabbling for more than just a few minutes. They have strategies that work for almost every occasion, including walking away, writing it on the problem board, negotiating and sometimes, just throwing themselves down on the ground and hoping for a sympathetic sibling to concede the toy.” Mother of 3 children, under the age of 5

4. Use Reality as your Guide: “I had kids who were very physical and it really concerned me. I thought that the fighting defined the relationship and it scared me. Over time, as I learned to watch the kids in other situations, I realized that they had a high degree of respect for each other and often times worked together in ways that I overlooked. I think it’s important for parents to really challenge their beliefs about what it means for kids to enjoy each other because truly, I think it can sometimes be a bit Polly-Anna. And today, my kids are as close as any siblings I know.” Mother of 3 children, ages 25 – 19

5. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how they “do” getting along. Most parents admit that when challenged to do this, they recognize that the kids get along more then they give them credit for. So take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

6. Give them a break from each other. Even kids can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

7. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens) leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go along way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

8. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and that your expectations are in line with reality.

9. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and over compensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually back fires and causes more fractures not less.

10. Take pictures of the times people are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure appreciations during Family Meetings includes when kids are rockin it out together. Remember, whatever you pay attention too – you get more of.

jens kids

Remember to pace yourself. It’s not nearly as important to have young children who have developed the skills which makes it possible for us to get along with people day in and day out for years, as it is to help them build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time and solidify the relationship they have with their brothers and sisters.

For Auld Lang Syne

SnowflakesI hear those sleigh bells ringing… It’s that time of year again and everyone here would like to extend to all of you our best wishes for a happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, this month is sure to be filled with parties, excitement, presents and, truth be told, stress!

During these trying times, It’s easy to overlook the very thing that we are supposed to be celebrating – our relationships with family. It’s easy to be short-tempered when your To-Do List requires more hours in the day than you have or your kids are bouncing off the walls from excitement or sugar.

Whatever the case try to remember a few simple tips:

  • Be easy on yourself and your kids.
  • Don’t worry if each moment isn’t picture perfect.
  • Don’t worry if those cookies didn’t get made because you preferred to listen quietly by the fire to the snow falling with your little one (or big one) curled up next to you.

So whether you’re riding in a wonderland of snow, or drinking a cup of kindness, we hope you all enjoy this holiday season and wish you all the best in the New Year.

~Vicki

10 Tips to Happier Parenting!

Pierce-lingelbach

Happier Parenting doesn’t happen by magic. It takes practice. Here are my favorite tips for creating a life with kids that is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.

 

 

1. Stop Worrying

About how your children express themselves in terms of their personal style (this includes their wardrobe, accessories, hair and makeup). Learn to notice character traits that define your child as a unique human being.

2. Ignore strangers

In the grocery store who give you the hairy eye-ball when your child throws a temper tantrum.

3. Learn to Wait Quietly

As your child finds his/her own solution for dealing with disappointment or frustration (or just being too tired to shop).

4. Don’t Interfere

If your child decides to go to school in jammies, wear sandals in the snow, or watch tv instead of doing homework. Nature is the best teacher.

5. Celebrate Your Child’s Courage

To make a choice and listen as he/she shares the experience without judgment or criticism.

6. Ignore Mistakes

Big and small, yours and theirs, and remember that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Resist the Urge to Say:

“I told you so” “What were you thinking?” and “If you had listened to me in the first place, you could have avoided the whole mess.” Imagine yourself in your child’s shoes and then respond accordingly.

7. Leave the mess.

When your child is 35 how do you want her to remember you? As the best damn, nagging housekeeper in the neighborhood or as her ally, champion and teacher?

8. Never ever, ever, ever, ask your neighbor how she parents.

You wouldn’t take your car to an accountant for an oil change would you?Consider yourself the expert in your child’s life.

9. When you don’t know what to do do nothing.

Challenge every belief you have about what “good” parents do and don’t do and replace it with accurate, factual information that will help you parent from your best.

10. Don’t make the mistake

Of believing that your children ARE their mischief making. Mischief making is your clue that you are living with a discouraged child. The only solution is to encourage and encourage again.

Holiday Parties and Picky Eaters

holidays with picky eatersThe Holidays can wreak nutritional havoc on any child’s eating habits- and picky eaters can contribute much undue stress and conflict if we choose to let their preferences take center spotlight.  You may be at a family feast or friendly festivity when you’ll hear those words you’ve been dreading, like: “I don’t like chicken cordon bleu; I only eat chicken nuggets!” or “I don’t want those vegetables—I see cookies!”

When you  hear words like this, you’ll probably feel flush and yes, it can be challenging, to say the least, to feel good about the food our children choose to eat—or not eat—at parties. But how we respond determines how long this will drag out, how upset everyone will end up or how much time energy will get sucked into a fight over food. Because so much relies on our reactions, it’s helpful to keep these in mind:

  • Feed her first, then let it go. If you are really worried about it, make sure your child has a healthy snack or meal before going to the party.
  • Participate in the potluck! Offer to bring something, and then bring a healthy meal or side dish that you know your children like and will eat.
  • Be proactive vs. reactive as sugar mania sets in. Talk with your children ahead of time about all the goodies they’ll see and make an agreement on how many sweets they should have, over the course of the party. Just don’t get too distressed if the temptations override the commitment. Afterall, it’s not everyday you have 8 pies and 35 cookie trays to choose from!
  • Let it go.  The bottom line is —one day of bad eating will not ruin your child’s health, and most likely they will remember the party as a whole lot of fun!

The most important thing we can do is help our children develop healthy eating habits during the rest of the year, so that eating well becomes part of who they are. When this happens, children will be more likely to find the balance between eating good and bad items—even at a party. Besides, if you’ve every had too much of a good thing, then well, you know there are lessons to be learned that you’ll only discover for yourself via indulgence.

Happy Holidays!

Share your photos of kids and cookies, HERE.

Back to School One Liners

okeedokeeBack to school is a great time to offer children ownership in their daily lives. When children “get” invested in a system like the morning routine, clothing choices, food selections, homework sessions and so forth, they discover what works for them and in turn, they enjoy the process!

But how do we “get” our kids invested?

We ask!

We find out what their ideas are, what they want to try, when they want to try them and for how long they want to practice. Then we give them space to decide if it’s working or if they’ve discovered the best system for them. And then we say these simple back to school one liners:

Okeedokee kiddo, give it a whirl!

or ALRIGHTYTHEN.

Here are a few primers to get you going:

  • Where do you want to hang your backpack everyday after school? I’ll let you hang the hook. (There? Next to the fridge? Okeedokee, there it is.)
  • Are you going to pack lunches at night or in the morning? (Even if you think, sheesh there’s no way you’ll have time before school! ALLLRIGHTYTHEN– 6am it is).
  • What would you like in your lunch? Let’s go shopping together so you can pack your lunch. (Yogurt + yogurt raisins + yogurt smoothie? Okeedokee I guess you like yogurt).
  • When would you like to get your homework done? After school? After dinner? In the morning? (Okeedokee... homework might not happen because you like playing outside after school).
  • What time do you think you should get ready for bed? What time do you think is good for lights out? (ALRIGHTYTHEN…you think you’ll be able to get ready in 4 minutes, try it.).
  • When are you going to take a bath? Oh, you want to shower? Ok…when? (Even if you’re thinking really? At night? Okeedokee…bedhead.
  • How do you want to wear your hair? Or what kind of pants do you want to wear? (Really, no jeans? Ever? Track pants and shorts for 180 days? Okeedokee, try it.)
  • What time should we be IN the car if we want to be at school on time? How will we remember this time? (You’ll set an alarm to go off in the kitchen one minute prior? Okeedokee – let’s see how it works).
  • Do you have clean socks or would you like to do your laundry this weekend? (Okeedokee you think those four socks will last you seven days? Alrightythen*.).
  • When would you like to have family meetings during the school year? Seriously? Saturday mornings at 7:30? (ALRIGHTYTHEN…no sleeping in…that is until one day THEY realize I’ll be by the sleepover at 7:15…and that’s not gonna work.)

Do you have any favorite back to school one liners?

 

10 Reasons to Slow Down

Stop Quick-Fix Parenting and Connect with Your Kids

slow-down

In the last post, we uncovered the answer to an age old parenting question: HOW DO I GET MY KID TO DO WHATEVER I WANT?

The answer, in short was:

However you want- with a variety of bandaids and temporary quick fixes. These might get the job done for a moment but they don’t work well or for long.

You see, slapping a bandaid (a bribe, a threat, a timeout, etc) to GET MY KID TO will only masque a deeper bulletwound – a problem rooted in a lack of training or a broken relationship. Both are worth fixing and yes, both are in mom and dad’s court to mend (not the child’s).

 Slow Down, Toss the Bandaids

1. Slow Down to Show Them

Creating healthy habits takes time. Training kids takes time. Be intentional. Go step by step. If you want your child to learn to do laundry, you must slow down to show him how to sort, carry, load, turn on the washer, the dryer, add soap, etc.

Each step takes time to master. We often rush kids, set our expectations too high, get frustrated with them and reach for a bandaid (bribe, timeout, punishment) because they didn’t get it done (hitting turbo mode once again).

Be patient and see errors and setbacks as positive- kids will be far more willing to cooperate when accepted,  encouraged and invited to participate (vs. steered and managed).

2. Slow Down to Let Them Learn (and Practice)

Since the goal is NOT to have a clean room but INSTEAD to train the child to care for his room, focus on teaching a process vs. demanding a final result.

Think about it.  If you’ve recently learned something new, you get that mistakes are part of the learning. Slowing down gives kids space to:

  • mess up (oops, I didn’t put enough food in my lunch, next time I will)
  • (gasp) do it “half-assed” (how does that usually work out as adults- you end up doing it again, right?)
  • put it off for way too long (and discover for themselves how fun it is to do all the laundry at once…on a Saturday afternoon).
  • find their rhythms (I can’t stand missing out on play time after school so I’ll do my contribution before school).

Trust they’ll learn more if you step out a bit.

3. Slow Down to Say I Think You Can Handle Your Life

Nothing says, hey, you can handle your life more than trusting a child to well, handle her life. And for a child, her life is her room and all her “stuff” like: homework, lunch, backpack, wardrobe, music, and more. If you’re rushing to get out the door, you miss not only the opportunity to let her practice but the chance to build trust and in turn, strengthen the relationship.

4. Slow Down to Uncover Solutions

“You can’t think of solutions while you’re nagging.”  Meghan Leahy.

There are many ways to solve a problem – consider using roadmaps – trying and failing until you move toward a sustainable solution. There’s value in discovering, together, that the first few ideas didn’t do a bit of good. But that third idea? Whoa. It was the keeper.

 Once you play around with HOW to solve a problem and let the kids participate, you’ll discover there are more solutions to try (not all will work!) than there are bandaids in the quick-fix box.

5. Slow Down to Notice and Monitor Progress

If you’re zipping everywhere, with the focus on getting things done, you won’t even notice all the tiny shifts that happen when your child progresses toward independence. You don’t want to miss how far they’ve come because you’re looking three steps ahead!

6. Slow Down to Identify What Matters

Maybe it’s not such a big deal that her clothes match or his notebook is signed. Maybe what matters is she’s willing to get dressed on her own and he’s learning to get the reading done on his own. When you slow down, you quickly realize most of the stuff we think matters right now this second doesn’t matter. Cleaning up the “it has to be like this” or “it must get finished now” brain clutter will diminish power struggles and make the everyday flow much easier.

We are a culture obsessed with outcomes and this kind of thinking keeps children from learning to use the “process” as a teaching tool. So choose carefully what really matters to you – the outcome or the child.

7. Slow Down because Parenting is about the Kids, Not the Parents

Stop worrying about how perfectly you do this or how well your kids behave  or how quickly they listen when you say boo. Try, instead (and I know this is tough) to turn away from the snarky folks at the check out line who are giving you the hairy eyeball as your child s-l-o-w-l-y counts through her money bag for the exact change to purchase a plastic toy that will not last the car ride home.

Nothing is as important as ensuring our children are moving toward independence, self reliance and are engaged in all that life has to offer. It’s not that a bribe to get through the checkout quicker (and keep everyone else happy) is the end of the world- it’s just that the child has missed another opportunity to practice moving toward independence. When parents make this the “norm” they are (often totally unknowingly) thinking of themselves as “good” parents, and not parenting in the interest of the child.

We’ve all been here. Next time you find yourself here, remember to let go of the drive to be a perfect parent and trust that you are indeed the perfect parent for YOUR child. Do this, and you’ll free up space to move forward in other areas.

8. Slow Down because this Won’t Matter in 3 Days, 3 Weeks or 3 Years

Do you even remember what you were rushing around for three days ago? I don’t. We get so caught up in the GOGOGO that we don’t realize we’re trading valuable training time for nonsense that will be forgotten in a matter of hours. Nobody will remember if his socks matched or if her hair was in ponytails or braids.  Just remember that “This too shall pass” and I encourage you to find some mantra that allows you to take a breath, slow your heart and your mind, and leverage your own experience so that you can stay present in the moment ensuring that you are parenting from a place of intention and love.

9. Slow Down to Support the Learning

As nice as it would be to think that teaching our child to get dressed once, would end all further getting dressed scuffles, but the truth is, every moment of the 18, 19 or 20 years we are living in the same home as our children, is a time of learning for them. If you can surrender to this fact, if you can embrace that you will have to teach a skill many times over the course of many years, you can begin to focus on the progress and the improvement you are all making and not on putting a bit red CHECK next to a particular task. As I like to remind myself, Life is Practice.

10. Slow Down to Connect with Your Child

All any of us want, is to feel a deep connection with those we love. We yearn for connections that make us feel loved, whole, accepted. We dream of quiet moments, and shared secrets, and private jokes that lead to giggles and memories that keep us warm and safe during scary moments. It isn’t the “doing” that makes our children feel a deep connection with their parents – its the moments in between, when no one is looking that build the kind of connection between parent and child that last a lifetime. So find time to connect to yourself, your spouse, your children and your life. [hr]

 

Tips: Let Go to Find Balance

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” ~Havelock Ellis

Are you dragging behind you, that burden-stuffed backpack filled with every bad parenting decision you’ve made? Every missed opportunity for training your kids or each blown chance at teaching a valuable lesson? Are all those years (months perhaps if you’re a new parent) of parenting imperfection affecting your ability to become the parent you’d like to be?

If you said yes, you’re not alone. Too often parents want to change the course of their family’s experience but they feel, Ah, well I’ve already done it this way for so long, there’s no turning the ship around at this point. And they carry that feeling of holding on, despite total misery. There’s guilt and regret, hopelessness and thoughts of failure that stay shoved in that backpack until one day it leaves us exhausted and ready to collapse in a pile of tears.

I’d like to take a moment to say (shout it out actually, while waiving my hands in the air) that anyone can change and, that change happens over time. If you keep saying, gee, I’d like to raise independent kids but I can’t because I’ve already done everything for them for 8 years, then sure enough you’ll never change. But if you recognize that the person you are today is based solely on the decisions you made in the past, you’ll realize the future YOU will be affected by the choices you make today. (Stop and think about it, it takes a second).

This isn’t one of those simple positive thinking pep talks. Change truly happens over time. You’ll fall off the wagon, and you’ll face the choice: get on or sit in the dirt. Try to choose to get back on, no matter how many times you end up in the dirt (sometimes on the ground for longer than is enjoyable). Trust it, keep getting on and you’ll see progress. In that progress, comes, (here’s the tie in) BALANCE.

In this blog entry, 6 Tips to Live in Peace and Balance: What to Let Go, the author discusses the ways to let go and to find balance. I looked at it through the parenting lens and found the tips can be applied to helping us find balance in parenting as well as in other areas of their lives.

1. Physical Clutter – Learning to let go of the stuff has a positive effect on everyone in the family. How many times have you bought something for your kids and then expected them to take care of it which ended in power struggles and battle lines? And being tied to our stuff keeps us checked out of the relationships most important to us – the one with our selves, our partner and our kids.

2. Dreams and Goals – Let go of the dreams and goals you had when your kids were small if you, I mean they, never reached them. Don’t carry them around. Face who your children are right now and build for tomorrow from where you, I mean they, are TODAY (not from back when you dreamed you’d raise a perfect-mannered-trilingual-world-traveling-model-Gerber-baby-cherub-who-would-read-by-age-2-and-sing-professionally-by-6 munchkin).

3. Expectations – Many parents expect that parenting will be easy. HA! They expect that their kids will never get into trouble. HA! And they feel like failures as they try to live up to the expectations of society. DOWN RIGHT DUMB! Parents think they have a shot at being “perfect” and can learn the “right way” to raise a “perfect” kid. But the truth is KIDS ARE MESSY! So look around. Toss the expectations out the window of your swagger wagon. (After all, you never expected to be rocking a mini van now did you? It is what it is: a crumb-filled, kinda like life).

4. Bad Habits – This one really gets us as parents! We CONTINUE to do what doesn’t work because we’ve gotten in the habit of our bad habits with no real idea how to replace them with something, anything more suitable. No matter how much we hate YELLING (or punishing or time outing or whatever) we end up going back to it because we feel we have to do “something” to get the kids to behave. Let it go. Identify and replace the bad habits (including the habits that you might include parenting on autopilot, reminding, lecturing, guilting, etc). Get NEW thinking about your habits and they will change.

5. Memories and Experiences – In the blog entry it says, “Our brain is hard-wired into noticing and holding on to negative events five times more effectively than positive ones.” So this means, in essence we have to train ourselves to stop focusing on the times we screw up, the times our kids misbehave and all the other crappy memories we just loooove to hang on to! Tell yourself to let the little things go- will it matter in 5 years? 5 minutes? It’s so much to hold on to when it really truly doesn’t matter.

6. People. As parents, we tend to get sucked into circles that may negatively affect our parenting. Whether it’s a boss, a friend you can never be good enough for, a relative you’re letting run your life, or a circle of gossipy, complaining, blaming playground moms and dads. These people affect the time and energy we give to our children. If there’s someone bringing the toxic vibes to you, it is most likely, spilling into your family. Cut it loose and you’ll find some secure ground. In the end, after all, it’s about who you are right now and you must let go and make the best decisions for tomorrow by knowing how to let go of what holds you back today.

 

9 Tips to Parenting Peace

peace-balanceThis list was compiled by my friend,  S.G. in response to a parent who was struggling with how to make the morning and evenings run smoother with her young kids since having recently returned to the workforce. After I read it, I realized that this list will work for ANY parent or EVERY parent who has 1 child or 5 children and is trying to juggle family, work, & life. Of course I HAD to add my own 2 cent worth in red. Enjoy.

1) DROP THE GUILT

Do NOT feel guilty if you have decided to go back to work (or you are volunteering or doing anything else that takes you out of the home for any extended period of time). Its useless and it just takes enjoyment away from the good times and adds stress to the bad ones. You’d have the good and bad times even if you didn’t work.

Guilt is an indulgence. Either Quit or LOVE YOUR LIFE. That’s it. Regret is a waste – in so many ways and it teaches the children to live with regret – and you don’t want that to be your legacy.

2) DOWNSIZE IS THE NAME OF THE GAME

Give up some of the things you are trying to do during those 2 hours in the morning or two hours in the evening. Some things you do just because you’ve always done them, not because they are vital to you or your family (gifts don’t need beautifully tied ribbon, dessert doesn’t have to be homemade, car doesn’t need to be waxed, dinner can be healthy even if it consists of only one item) and you can lower your standards if you feel comfortable doing so (beds don’t HAVE to be made, pants don’t HAVE to be ironed, it’s ok if the garbage actually threatens to overflow before you take it out).

Oh you work that downsize girl. Remember what is important in your life, and that your kids only care about a few thing – food, sleep and being with mom and dad. So focus on that. As my friend Cindy Pierce says, lower the bar and your life will become infinitely more satisfying, easy and fun.

3) INTEGRATION OF WORK AND PLAY

Let your work and home time intermingle. This won’t work for all jobs/Moms. But sometimes I do ‘personal’ things at work and sometimes I do work things after kids go to bed.

4) BALANCE BY DESIGN

As much as you can, (yea I know you’re laughing at me as you think of your 1 year old) let your time with the kids be the exact same time that you’re trying to get stuff done (ie involve them as much as possible). It’ll slow down the work, but it’ll be ‘connect’ and ‘capable’ and ‘count’ time with the kids.

I couldn’t agree more. And if you start now, this will become the way you connect with your kids for the rest of their lives. You are creating a LIFESTYLE. Not just learning to raise kids and juggle a career. This is your LIFE. Design It.

5) TAP INTO YOUR ASSETS

Remember it takes a village to raise a child. If you have family that can help, let them, carpool with another family, or hire a mother’s helper once or twice a week until you feel like you can handle more on your own (or keep them just cause). The benefit is that your kids will get other people in their lives that love them and you get a bit of sanity.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Believe it or not, I BORROW little kids to play with, shop with, bake with now that my kids are grown and gone. I loved my own kids so much when they were home, that I am recreating this experience and I would think there must be folks in your life that would love to steal your kids for a few hours. You are not imposing, I promise you. So ask.

6) HAPPY MOMMIES

Do make a small bit of time for yourself – alone or with friends – so you don’t melt down during the morning/evening stress.

Always a must. A big must. Even if it is only 30 minutes, it will renew your spirit for hours.

7) CREATE A HEALTHY TRIBE

Talk to other working moms – often. They’re your best support group.

Creating a healthy tribe of women and men of all ages with kids at all stages is imperative. Your healthy tribe will help you keep the drama at a minimum, will renew your spirit when you need it, and will act as a sounding board so you stay…..on track.

8) COOK IN BULK

Make huge batches of food on the weekend (buy a stand up freezer) that you can nuke/reheat during the week.

This is one of my all time favorites and one I used for nearly 10 years with my own kids (5). And here are multiple benefits to this one easy strategy. I cooked every Sunday in front of football (or some other sporting event, but you can do anything while you cook. I happen to LOVE sports). Before long, the kids were in the kitchen cooking with me, or they were watching football with their dad and bonding with him, or they were doing homework. We were all together, the kids learned to cook and to work with me in the kitchen AND we were making food for the week that would simplify our lives. . Now, clearly with very young kids, they will be off playing, but you see how this can become part of your parenting lifestyle. Because you have the food ready in advance, you can also have an after work snack ready to dive into as soon as you walk in the door. This will keep everyone happier and give you time to slow down, connect and then start dinner – which will be much easier as you aren’t trying to come up with it on the go.

9) USE YOUR VACATION CREATIVELY

If your family is “ok” with it and your boss is ok with it, use some of your vacation days to do errands, visit your kids’ schools, or just go home early. Bonus if your work is ok with you taking vacation in 1/4 or 1/2 day increments, go for it, especially when the kids are young.

There you have it. If you are still struggling with morning and after school/work routines, if you are back in the workforce, if your kids are requiring more time and energy from you right now, then let our Top 9 list help guide you towards success.

Tips for Setting Boundaries

Imagine a playpen.

Now imagine that playpen is a metaphor for a set of boundaries that you believe, when in place, will allow your children the freedom to explore their environment as well as keep them safe.

Now, imagine that you set your two year old in this playpen and initially he/she is not too happy about it.

  • She thinks she can handle more than you think she can handle.
  • He thinks he can eat 10 Oreos not just 1.
  • She think she can do without a nap – yet you know better.
  • He thinks it’s okay to crawl up on the counter, but you know the stove is hot.

Even though there is push back, you are confident and the boundaries are clear to both you and your child. They are set. You aren’t changing them. They are age appropriate, they allow the child enough freedom to explore and still keep him safe physically, emotionally and intellectually and at the same time offer you some peace-of-mind. Your child can handle his surroundings but he hasn’t mastered them yet. He needs practice and this is where he will practice until he has achieved mastery.

Within a day or two, your child figures out you are serious about the boundaries and instead of fighting to push the boundaries, he settles into the environment and begins to really explore it. He becomes stronger, more capable. Because his world is organized and orderly and his parents are firm and kind and consistent, the child can relax and enjoy the best parts of childhood – exploration.

Eventually, your child masters this new landscape, and then, one day, maybe a week or a month or three months from now, your child begins to push against those boundaries again. That is your cue that your child has mastered his environment and is ready to move into a metaphorically bigger “playpen.”

And so you create a new, updated set of boundaries that are in line with your child’s abilities and you plop them down in their new bigger “playpen.”

And again, the child bucks at these restrictions, settles down, explores, learns, masters and then is ready for the next set of challenges.

I know it might sound very simplistic, but this simple metaphor helped me create 100 or more playpens for each of my five kids. And each one of those kids was different which meant that the boundaries were different. Without this system, I shudder to think of the chaos we would all have been living in.

If you are searching for a way to determine what boundaries to set and then how to set them, use this metaphor or create your own. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is your ability to create a set of boundaries that supports your child and his/her rate of growth and offers you the confidence to enforce these boundaries until the child has mastered the skills.

“How To” Slow Parent

slow-parenting-post“Slow Parenting” – I like that phrase.

Slow Parenting a phrase that has grown out of author, Carl Honoré’s, books, “The Power of Slow: Finding Balance and Fulfillment Beyond the Cult of Speed,” and more recently, “Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting.” Slow parenting “implies quality over quantity… being present and in the moment… and allowing our children to work out who they are rather than what we want them to be.” (See Belkin article below). For those of you familiar with Parenting on Track™, this must sound very familiar.

Honoré’s theories behind how today’s parents often find themselves off track by bending over backwards to give their kids the best of everything, while all they really need is love, attention and space to figure out the world on their own terms are what lie at the heart of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program. I have met too many parents that have lost confidence in themselves as parents. Why? Good question.

My guess is that it has to do with a few things:

  • Parents are constantly bombarded with pressure from the outside world to raise the perfect child that behaves at all times (show me one before you tell me it’s possible).
  • A next door neighbor that acts shocked when they find out YOUR child doesn’t have a tutor.
  • A company marketing products that any “good parent” should already have for their child.

Parents find themselves looking “outside” to society for cues on how they are doing in the parenting arena and trying to keep up with the ever more exhausting demands. I am exhausted just HEARING the stories. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live in this climate – or should I call it a race?

What I do know is that this “race” robs parents of their confidence, which in turn diminishes the confidence of their children. Unlike slow parenting, it doesn’t encourage parents to create meaningful dialogue with their children, nor does it allow parent’s the space to reflect on where they are today as a family, where they would like to be in 30 days, 6 months or 18 years, and it certainly doesn’t support parents as they try and navigate the best way for THEIR family to get there.

So what will it take for you, as a parent, to slow down and become more thoughtful in your interactions? What would the impact be on you, your children and your family in general? I think I just heard a collective sigh as parents stepped back from the precipice of “race parenting” and consider the benefits of, “slow parenting”.

The Parenting On Track™ program teaches, in essence, how to create a kind of “slow parenting” style. It really is possible in this fast paced world we live in, to become that intentional, thoughtful, reflective parent that creates an atmosphere of connection, comfort and cooperation in your family.

One parent told Honoré that when he finally found himself in a place that could be described as slow parenting, “I exhaled and it was like I was letting out a breath that I’d been holding for years.” Doesn’t that sound refreshing?

Read the article, “What is Slow Parenting” by Lisa Belkin, Motherlode Blog, New York Times Magazine, April 14, 2009.