All posts tagged children

What Great Parents Do – Another Giveaway!

75Once in a while, a book comes along, written so well, that you wish you had been the one to write it. Such is the case with “What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive.” by Erica Reischer, PhD. This new book offers you a way to improve your skills over time, it engages you in a way that a slick, try it, it will work strategy can’t. If you have ever worked with me or attended one of my presentations, you know that all change happens, over time when we focus our attention on one thing until we have mastered it.

Okay, here is a short list of what makes this book great.

  • You can start anywhere and improve your parenting.
  • It’s not really about changing your kids, but more about improving your skill set when it comes to parenting.
  • She includes research, common sense and years in the field to compile a thoughtful, well organized and relevant guide any parent can use if they want to improve their parenting skills and the relationship they have with their children.
  • You could take each chapter and work on refining your parenting skills or approach over the course of a week or a month.
  • Instead of jumping around trying to address bedtimes, sass, technology and so on, she offers parents insights into their mindsets, their responses and how making small changes can bring about big results.
  • The book helps parents understand children in new and clearer ways and breaks down old myths concerning kids and their behavior.
  • She uses science to back up her assertions so that parents don’t have to do all the heavy leg work themselves and can instead access what’s available and put it to good use immediately.
  • It is uplifting, realistic, full of possibility and inspiring.

Here’s the thing. I am a firm believer that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. Sometimes we just need new information. I believe that we really all can be great parents and it doesn’t mean – we have to be turned into someone else. It just means we have a choice. Do we apply the new information or not?

This is a must for every new parent and for anyone already in the trenches with kids. So we are offering another giveaway. Comment below by midnight on Friday 8/26 and we’ll add your name in a drawing for a free book. Enjoy the end of your summer!

Five Ways we Limit Kids’ Growth (and how to meet Kids’ True Needs)

Heather-Shumaker-author-portraitWhen I first connected with Heather a few years ago I fell to my knees in gratitude. Finally, a book I could recommend to parents that would address some of the most baffling, confusing and perplexing parenting issues in a straight forward, common sense way that parents with kids of almost any age could embrace. It is with great pleasure that I share this post by Heather as she introduces us to her second book, It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. Her new book is filled with wisdom, humor and smashes through old myths that influence our approach to parenting.


Five Ways we Limit Kids’ Growth (and how to meet Kids’ True Needs)

Vicki and I crossed paths when our first books were being released and discovered we were kindred spirits. Now it’s exciting to share second books – Vicki’s Straight Talk on Parenting and my new title It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, coming out today.

rule31_final PlaygroundA reader summed up my first book by saying: “If you like respectful parenting, but are baffled by your child’s intense emotions and behavior when she hits the preschool years, It’s OK Not to Share, is the answer.” Now we’re moving into an area of life that’s tricky for most families: the time when children hit elementary school and encounter a whole gamut of new rules – some of which go against your family parenting philosophy. What to do? How can we stand up for our kids and our families when there are so many other partners involved?
It’s easy to fall into habits, and sometimes you’ll find yourself in other people’s habits. Here are some common ways we limit kids’ growth without knowing it.

1. Signing Homework Papers

It might be the spelling list, reading chart or math worksheet. More and more, parents are asked to verify that a child has done an assignment by signing or initialing on the line. Requiring a parent signature steals trust and responsibility from a child. School assignments are a child’s job. It’s one thing to share with the family, it’s another thing to make the parent the Homework Monitor. Restore partnerships of trust and if you must have a signature – let the child sign her own name. (And, as you’ll see below, wait until middle school before welcoming homework.)

2. Giving Homework At All

What’s more galling than signatures is this: comprehensive analysis of 180 peer-reviewed research studies found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit in elementary school. Extraordinary. All those nightly battles between overtired children and anguished parents are for naught. What research shows is that academic benefits are highly age-dependent. It helps for high schoolers (but only if limited to 2 hours or less per night) and shows a very small gain for middle schoolers, but for elementary kids? Nothing. The time young children spend doing homework can be freed up to focus on other vital activities – running around outside, following their own play ideas, helping with family life and getting good, long sleep.

3. Thinking ‘Safety First’

One of the chapters in my book is called “Safety Second.” That’s because our Safety First culture really has forgotten that safety is not the goal of life. Life is about change and growth. We can’t live a worthwhile life – and neither can our kids – if safety is always top priority. Healthy risk is an essential part of natural development. We limit our children’s access to healthy risk in so many ways, whether it’s physical risk (running fast, cutting with a knife), emotional risk (possibly feeling bad) or social risk (possibly being rejected). Even if safety is king, some of our age-old safety lessons, ex: Don’t Talk to Strangers, are actually wrong.

4. Using Recess as a Disciplinary Tool

Get in trouble and you miss recess. Don’t complete your math assignment and you miss recess. Every day, millions of school children live under the threat of recess being taken away. It’s time to stop using recess as a tool against kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that recess should never be taken away as a punishment – either for behavior or academic reasons. This makes sense when you consider why recess is there in the first place: to meet kids’ needs so they can learn. When we deprive a child of recess, and face it, it’s usually the most squirmy, restless ones who get it taken away, we are stunting their learning. Kids learn academics best when their brains are fresh. We all need breaks, and research shows that the more recess the better when it comes to memory, focus, problem-solving and behavior, too.

5. Being Scared of “I’m bored”

Families offer so much to their children, but they are not meant to function as entertainment centers. Young children can play on their own. We do not have to stack blocks for hours to be a good parent, or feel we need to fix something when a child announces, “I’m bored.” Have confidence in kids. Their brains are naturally wired to play, and if they can’t find something to settle on immediately, have faith they will soon. If your kids struggle with free time, it could be a sign they are overscheduled, overentertained and not getting enough free time to be themselves.

If any of these topics sound interesting, you’ll find more in the book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. There’s help for making sure elementary school is child and family friendly, including sample scripts and ideas for approaching teachers about homework, plus chapters for two-ten-year-olds on technology, princess play, mistakes, “that’s not fair!” sad stories, teasing, group calendar time, what to do about kindergarten, and why it’s good to talk to strangers.

Special offer this week: if you buy It’s OK to Go Up the Slide this week, you’ll get free gifts (special one-hour podcast taking you behind the scenes in the book, plus a set of designed quotes for your fridge).
Simply

  • 1) buy the book from any bookstore before March 13, 2016 and
  • 2) send an email to slide@heathershumaker.com telling me where you bought it.

About Heather

Heather Shumaker is a national speaker on early childhood topics and the author of two books, It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, both published by Tarcher/ Penguin. Learn more about Heather, her podcasts, books, blog and infamous “why we ban homework” blog post at www.heathershumaker.com

Routines 101

Routines Rule The Roost (Sorry parents!)

kids need

Two of the most common issues families face are a lack of cooperation and crappy time management skills. These two biggies affect every part of the family’s day, from the minute the alarm clock rings to the final light’s out, there is often struggle and frustration with the flow of daily activities, chores and expectations.

Any family can get through the day by winging it as it comes. What happens though, is we have no idea how the day will really unfold! Mornings can unpredictably rock or end in a full- blown temper tantrum, bedtimes might fluctuate, and responsibilities shift according to mood and patience level. Often we’re just going along, from one task to another, hanging on to sanity by a thread. Then after a marathon of chaotic sprints, we fold, plunking down in a chair, fully exhausted and ready to check out with a dose of reality TV. We hate to admit it, but we sometimes dread the following day simply because it’ll start all over again, ending right in the same LazyBoy with little to no energy for what’s to come.

Without a solid routine, families meet all kinds of interesting and tiresome issues include meltdowns, tears, fighting, breakfast in the car, mismatched socks, stinky breath, homework undone, and so forth.

You want to enjoy the morning with your munchkins. You want them to take care of their business. You want the stress level low and you want to get out of the house on time!

Don’t we all?

Ben Franklin

So what’s the solution? Routines! Routines that rock, actually. And here is how it works.

WHAT SUPPORTS ROUTINES THAT ROCK?

  •  Identify what you would like the morning, after school and evening routines to look and feel like in your home.
  •  Identify what you do now that works, and what isn’t working.
  •  Identify what your kids can do for themselves and what you would like them to be able to do.
  •  Develop a plan for your routine that takes into account your child’s needs, leaves room for their growth, as well as a little flexibility for the  unexpected and try it out.

Practice makes progress parents! I’ll be back with Part 2 in a few days.

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.

Siblings Fighting? Making Small Tweaks Can Change the Game

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

Here are the 3 simple tweaks (the first step) you can make to break the cycle of fighting in your home and create a little more peace, harmony and enjoyment from all that I promised you.

1. If YOU are still trying to GET your children to get along, the solution is simple: STOP. (In the next post I’ll share the most powerful strategy there is for eliminating the majority of the fighting in your home.) But first, I want you to stop getting involved and observe.

2. Because kids fight for their parents, the solution is to just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. I walked around with headphones on and pretended to listen to music. This drove my kids nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me, or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped and we could move on with our day.

mail.google.com

3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you will begin to notice that EVERYONE is in a new relationship with each other and that no one seems all that interested in fighting with anyone else.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.

The Gift of Duct Tape

Ok, wait! Before that thought goes anywhere it shouldn’t, I’m going to get you thinking about what ONE roll of duct tape can do for your parenting experience.

First, let’s take a second to think about you and your kids. I (probably) don’t know your children, but you do so go ahead, think about them in action. Now think about you in action as a parent. What seems to go smoothly (bedtime routine?) and what seems to fall apart every single time (morning routine?). Now, think about your favorite parenting strategy. Do you have one? I bet you do but you might not even know it. You might think, well, I don’t use anything consistently – but remember yelling, nagging, reminding, lecturing, and so on (and all those reactive habits) are strategies. Now, here’s where the duct tape is handy.

Imagine (and some of you have actually done this. I have.) taking a piece of duct tape and putting it right over your mouth. What would happen? You physically would not be able to remind them what to be doing, thinking, or saying all day long. Now sit in a chair. Imagine you’re duct taped there – guess what? You cannot run into the living room with every little spat. You can’t carry every backpack, or bring shoes for kids who left them at home. You can’t clean the entire house. In fact, all you can do is learn to sit there and accept what’s happening around you.

This, my friends, is the best gift you can give yourself, and it’s the gift that you can give your children. For 2015, I challenge you to learn to “duct tape” yourself out of all the nonsense that goes along with raising children. With this one gift of duct tape, you can give them the golden experience of independence, problem solving, failure, forgetting, learning, asking, remembering, discovering, unfolding, realizing, trying something new and creating a life that is their own. In one year, imagine the difference.

So parents, get out the roll of duct tape and have a Joyous Holiday and start thinking about next year right now!

For instructions on how to use the duct tape, grab a copy of Vicki’s book here. 

How to Handle Toddler Meltdowns

toddler meltdown

Question: How do I handle “bad” toddler behaviors- aka toddler meltdown?

Scenario: My 2.5 year old daughter does not do this often, but three times in the last 2 weeks she has either hit me or thrown a toy at me. My friend witnessed one of the episodes and told me I should take a firm stand on this behavior and let her know that I will not tolerate it. Should I sit her down and tell her that her behavior is unacceptable, send her to her room or is there another strategy that might get better results.

Answer:

Wow, only 3 times in 2 weeks. I would be toasting to that exceptional behavior, not trying to find a strategy to punish her which I am fairly certain will turn your 3 times in 2 weeks to 3 times every day.

When stumped on how to handle toddler meltdowns, consider this:

Kids hit, throw, bite, pull, punch, scream, spit, holler, cry, pout, hug, kiss, cuddle, laugh, and say I love you because they are learning.

What are they learning? How to interpret the world. They are looking for responses to all these behaviors as a way to inform them on which ones bring mom and dad closer to them, and which behaviors push mom and dad away from them.

The best and most effective strategy is this – pay attention to the behaviors that will best serve your child (these are sure to delight you as well) and ignore the ones that will cause her trouble as she grows and matures.

QUESTION for YOU: Have you ever had a moment when you didn’t know how to handle toddler behaviors? What did you try and how did it go?

Noticing Strengths

Meet my friend Millie. Millie is a mom I met several months ago after she read Duct Tape Parenting, found herself slightly perplexed, & decided to contact us to get some clarity around my “less is more” approach to parenting.

Millie is open, honest, aware and truly committed to gathering new information, letting go of some old parenting habits, creating some new ones and investing in the relationships she has with her kids.

We’ve had many conversations since the first one (and are in the process of recording some to publish as podcasts.) Millie even decided to start a blog  and here is one of her posts. She touches my heart daily and my hope is she will inspire someone else out there to be the parent they dreamed of being. Take it away Millie.

I adore my daughter.

pink-umbrellaI do. And so many of the things I adore about her are the things that also drive me bonkers.

I adore that she is so incredibly certain of herself and what she wants. As an adult who struggles with indecision and immediate buyers’ remorse, I marvel at her ability to make decisions and stick with them even in the face of intense pushback (often from me).

I adore that she is an early riser and is always eagerly ready to greet the day, usually with a song.

I adore that conventional songs cannot adequately express her thoughts and emotions, so she finds it necessary to make up her own, sometimes very lengthy songs. She also relies on made up words to convey her (very strong) ideas. I adore her made up words so much that many of them are now my passwords for my most secure sign-on information. Although they are random combinations of sounds that mean nothing to anyone else, they mean a lot to me.

I adore her tenacity. I despise her tenacity. I adore her tenacity. I have to tenaciously cling to my adoration for this quality because it often makes my life very difficult. She has no problem deflecting my (sometimes brilliant) efforts at redirection and distraction. When Olive sets her mind to something – She. Will. Have. It. At the same time that I’m wishing for a more compliant child, I’m also kind of pleased to think that she might have gotten a little of that tenacity from my side of the gene pool. My husband and I both have been known to sacrifice a great deal to achieve some goal we want to accomplish.

I adore her ravenous appetite for life. I could do without her ravenous appetite for cheese and ice cream and I often worry that she inherited my own garbage disposal approach to eating. But, Olive eats life up. It seems like she can’t get enough. Can’t get enough songs, shows, days at school, pink pairs of pants, playdates, ice cream . . .

I adore her never ending efforts to always skew the situation in her favor. She is “always closing.” (In sales, so my husband tells me, one of the mottos is: ABC: Always Be Closing. Olive would be great at sales.) This is a quality she certainly did not get from me and one I definitely have to work not to take personally. Closely related to her tenacity, this inborn instinct means that she literally never takes no for an answer. Her motto could be, “It never hurts to ask at least three times.”

One of the things that scares me the most about parenting is the fear that all Olive will see from me is my frustration and irritation because that is what shows up on my face most often. When she grows up and looks back on her childhood, I want her to remember my face as open and loving and adoring. I don’t want her to remember my frustrated, angry face. Of course, for that to happen, I need to spend a lot more time showing her my adoration, not just feeling it after she goes to bed and writing about it on my blog.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to adore my daughter.

We’ll be featuring Millie’s blog posts from time to time. To read more of Millie’s work, visit www.confessionsofanauthoritarianparent.com

To Bribe or Not to Bribe? No Question.

Treating Human BeingsIt took me three separate visits to the article in the New York Times Opinion Page, posted on October 28, 2013 in order to finish reading the article. At the end of each section, I hit the delete button and swore I wouldn’t read any more. But then I wondered – maybe there is an a-ha moment later in the article, and so I went back to read more. There was no a-ha moment, just an unabashedly boastful proclamation about one author’s use of bribes and rewards to manipulate her children.

I can’t really describe how upsetting and confusing this article is for me. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this kind of article creates a real buzz out there in the world, just look at all the comments. But to paint such a disparaging picture of your own children and then share it with the world to what – boost subscriber-ship or ignite a fire storm of controversy? I have to be honest, I just do not get it. Here is what I find so distasteful about this article.

1. I am a mother who has raised 5 children. I can not for the life of me understand how a mother could show such little faith in her children’s innate desire to learn, master their environment, and contribute to the world in positive ways

Oh sure, I know kids have long moments of apathy, disinterest and being less than cooperative, but for the most part, when a supportive parent provides a nurturing environment, kids get about the business of learning, mastery and contribution with very little coaxing from anyone.

And I wonder, when her children are older, what they will think of this article and the lack of faith their mom had in them. Maybe they will understand and accept that it was her job or that she didn’t really mean what she wrote, but I have found, that you never know how a child is going to interpret a parent’s intention and I am not sure I would be willing to risk what is at stake here.

2. Does she really believe there will be a moment when her children no longer depend on bribes and rewards to do the unpleasant tasks we are all required to do as adults? Or are we, the unsuspecting public going to have to pay for her unwillingness to help her kids learn that sometimes, whether you like it or not, things need to be done and most people don’t care whether you do them with a smile or a pout on your face. That choice is entirely up to you.

It seems her kids are missing out on a few critical skills that would make their adult lives far more rewarding, fulfilling and satisfying. But again, maybe teaching those skills is someone else’s job.

3. And finally, I shudder to think how many other parents will be influenced by her position and subscribe to the idea that bribing and rewarding children in order to manipulate them and make their lives easier is a reasonable proposition, and forget, that these kids are the future leaders of the free world. Maybe she doesn’t hold high hopes that her kids will have the grit, mental muscle or interest in becoming leaders who lead by example.

I’m not really sure what the purpose of this article was – except maybe to piss a lot of us off, in which case, I think it worked brilliantly. But beyond that, I can’t see that it offers any real value to a parenting conversation that supports any of us in our effort to raise more thoughtful, resilient, responsible and respectful human beings.

Articles: More Great Parenting Posts

Here it is! We’ve compiled some articles that are interesting, opinion-based, science-backed or just plain insightful for your parenting journey. We’re stockpiling a list of good stuff to share, so if you find something, send it our way and maybe we can include it in our weekly roundup.

In the event that you missed these articles, here is a sampling of what’s going around the web: (note, we’re going for quality here, so if we post an older article, it’s because we think the message is good. Also, we just like this stuff, we have no affiliations but we do hope to meet many of these authors and speakers! Thanks.)

Jillian Lauren Why We Don’t Punish Our Son, Ever

    This article, by author Jillian Lauren, went up on the moms.today.msn.com website about a year ago. I just stumbled on it last week- and I’m wondering what her family’s experience has been like. She says her point by not punishing is that she wishes to demonstrate the “kind of values I want to teach him and what kind of person I want him to become. I might be able to sit him in time-out or yell at him or spank him or take away his favorite toy or otherwise coerce him out of this completely annoying habit, but in exchange for his compliance, I’ve lost an opportunity to connect with my child…” This is the perfect example of a parent who has put the relationship strategies before discipline strategies and it’s an interesting read for anyone else making this commitment. May she inspire you to have the courage to put the relationship first!

Babble’s Mindy Berry WalkerHappy Mom’s Confession: I’m not so nice at home

    This article struck me because of its honesty. I read it the same week I hosted a women’s renewal retreat. They couldn’t compliment each other more– the article sends a cry for what mothers everywhere are seeking: contentment, connectedness, guilt-free parenting, acceptance and a healthy emotional balance so we can parent from our best. The Retreat, at the other end of the spectrum, provided just what any woman in her darkest hour deserves: time to heal, reflect, connect and be an authentic person supported by other women in a safe environment free of judgment and criticism. This confession uncovers what’s really going on with so many mothers and it shows us why we must take care of ourselves and look out for those around us. The comments are telling- and it’s a testament to the pressure we put on ourselves, the resentment that can build over time and the human need to get out there and adventure and stay connected.

Jennifer Conlin The Non Joie of Parenting

    This article by Jennifer Conlin covers the reality for US families: we’re too busy to stay connected, unlike the more low key paced communities she experienced in Europe. The take away is yes, kids don’t have to be the center of the universe and parents find it enjoyable to have a life outside the mom’s taxi. The question is, do you think things will change? Read and see what you think.

Sandra Aamodt Welcome to Your Child’s Brain

    This book, while a typical “parenting book” is just what we need to help reduce the panic we feel when we think we’re screwing up our kids. Basically, the book features brain science facts that back the notion that you don’t have to be a super-parent for your child’s intelligence to develop – just a good-enough parent. “The vast majority of children are like dandelions, in that they can thrive in almost any conditions.” In this case, being a weed is a good thing. Follow the author @sandra_aamodt

Christine Carter The Stuck-at-Home Generation

    This article by Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness discusses the trends in children staying closer to home and the declining interest in once definitive adolescent milestones (like getting a driver’s license!). She makes a solid point: proactive parenting decisions /commitments provide essential opportunity for independence and confidence. My husband and I decided to provide these kinds of opportunities to our own five children beginning with an Outward Bound expedition in the summer between their 8th and 9th grade and then a semester abroad during their Junior year of high school. As a result, our kids feel confident leaving their childhood neighborhoods and see themselves as global citizens. I highly recommend exposing your kids to new experiences that broad their view of the world they are growing up in.

Bully: A Provocative and Essential Documentary

    This article by NPR outlines the nature of this season’s much talked about documentary, Bully “a wrenching, intensely moral film” that has been given an R rating, much to the dismay of its audiences. “Bully weaves together five stories from different parts of America’s heartland. Two are about the grieving families of boys who’ve committed suicide — a 17-year-old in Georgia, an 11-year-old in Oklahoma City. The rest are profiles of kids still toughing it out — a Mississippi teenager who has been jailed after pulling a gun on the kids who made her life a living hell, a lesbian Oklahoma high-schooler who is tormented not just by other students but by her teachers as well.” This is a must see.

Lisa Belkin How Parenting Is Like Groundhog Day And Mad Libs

    I personally like this post because it gives some decent evidence on exactly how parenting reinvents itself every few years. Fads are as “fill in the blanks” as madlibs and what you do with the information in between is really up to you. Personally, as I’ve said in my recent Crap, Rant or Fad blog, I find that most everything is just a fire drill or it focuses no where near a solution. Instead, many of these articles stir up concerns and give us something else to worry about- and sure enough, as intensely as it came in, the parenting storm rolls out….that is until another hazy afternoon. Like the author, I’m quite desensitized to the immediate crisis du jour— it’s probably because I’ve also seen the same problems resurface over my 20 years of parent education. But the takeaway for me with this blog is that as parents, it’s way too easy to get worked up and be part of the problem- sharing details and getting in a tizzy over yet another label or category or omitting the part where you look for a solution to the bigger problem. Lisa says keep the wide lens open and I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I say keep the wide lens open and focused on where your family wants to be in 20 years and pay no mind to the dings and dents along the way.

Lenore Skenazy Outrage of the Week: No One Under 18 Allowed Outside Unsupervised in Florida Community

    Let’s just start by saying this blog post highlights a societal sentiment that I think is very unhealthy for children, parents and the community– and it’s happening in a real town in Florida! Read it. Comment. Read the comments and get your finger on the pulse of what parents who cherish independence and who trust their children are saying about this type of community ordinance. This community is forbidding ANYONE under 18 to be outside without supervision! “…no bike riding, no walking to the bus stop without an adult. Some parents say their kids are under house arrest” – just read through this blog post. How can these kids be ready for the real world if they can’t even ride their bike in their community?

Tending the Relationship (Spouse)

Vicki_Iain

Vicki Hoefle and her Husband, Iain

Take a deep breath here if you need too. None of us means to be short, snappy, critical or disrespectful, to our spouse, but it can happen.

My husband and I work on our relationship each and every day, not only for ourselves, but for our children as well.

We want them to have strong, loving relationships with their spouses and they are learning from us what that looks like and sounds like.

I can see my kids watching us, storing information for a later date and in fact, I am beginning to witness the first signs of how they interact and communicate with the opposite sex as they enter the dating world. It is clear that they already have strong ideas about male/female relationships and it is a pleasure to hear some of the words, tones and attitudes my husband and I use with each other come from the mouths of our children.

It is a clear and present reminder to both of us that we are always teaching something, so we best be mindful of what we are teaching.

Here are a few Tips for you:

1. Listen to yourself for the next few days. Find the courage to do a true and honest evaluation of your daily communication style with your spouse.

2. Commit to using a more “appreciative communication style” for the next 21 days and then take the time to “notice” for yourself, what changes are occurring.

3. Using appreciations, especially when they are unexpected is a powerful tool in creating a kind, compassionate, understanding and accepting family dynamic.

4. Make sure that your appreciations are sincere and spontaneous. For instance:

      • In the middle of a TV show, blurt something kind out so that everyone looks at you in a slightly questioning way
      • Shout across the room – Hey, ya know what I love about you……
      • Or walk out of the kitchen and whisper something sweet into your spouses ear. The smile on their face will convey to the kids that whatever you said, made the other person feel good inside.

Be creative and if you tend to be uncomfortable showing emotion, take a small step out of your comfort zone and extend your heart to those you love. 

hubby

All Aboard!

We’ve spent the last three blogs cracking open what it looks like when we’re tripped up as parents and seemingly headed in the opposite direction of our goals. We identified what trips us up, what it looks like and ultimately where we’d hope this train leads in the end for our families and our children.

If you take your chart (CLICK HERE to get caught up) and look at it for a minute, you’ll probably recognize that #3, the reason or goal of the situation, is generally immediate. We’re parenting on the wrong track in the wrong direction, because we slip out of big picture mode. We lose track of the final stop on the line (see column #4).

Look at the columns, side by side and see if the goal or the reason why you’re parenting from the wrong track is in line with what you ultimately want for your child down the road. Do they work together or do they run in opposite directions?

For example, if you are a control freak (like I once was, so I get it) and you’re constantly nagging and micromanaging, is it in line with a goal in column #4? If there are words like independent, observant, resilient, thinking kid, leader, and so on, you’ll see that every time you parent for the immediate solution, (by overriding their ability to make decisions, stopping a mess up, or preventing them from forgetting things) then you’re not supporting the end goal. Over time, you can see that while you want to be headed toward all those long-term goals, you’re not really on the right train.

So, get off at the next stop. Double check your map. Decide which end platform you’d like your child to set foot on at age 18.

Use this information to then think before you flip the switch to travel in the wrong direction. If you can think of it like this, it may help: as a parent EVERY action (not just the big ones, all the little ones) you take either MOVE YOU TOWARD or AWAY FROM that end goal.

Knowing this, each time you opt NOT to yell or correct or save the kids becomes easier and clearer. Practice will give you the mental muscle to make a conscious choice to stay off that tripped up track (even if it gets messy on the RIGHT track) and in the end, get you to a place you and your child can enjoy.

Pitstop: The Train Station

Where do you want this train to end up?

So, now we’re taking a moment to stand on the platform and look at the map. Inbound and outbound trains all over the wall. Destinations at every end. What is your route? Where do you want to go? Now is the time to pause and draw your own map.

Imagine that at the end of the line, your child is 18. What words would you like to see your child embrace, embody, employ when he steps off the track and into the real world? How are you doing? Are you headed in the right direction? Are you on course? Is it time to readjust or as the GPS voice says recalculate?

Write the words that describe what you really want for your child down at the end. Do it for each one of your children, as you’re probably in a different place with each child and each one of your children has different strengths to build on.

The goals can be anything: Independence. Responsibility. Social Awareness. Community. Confidence. Individuality. Judgement. Caring and Empathy. Decision Making. ANYTHING.

Think about this. What do you really want for your children, beyond being on time for school, or picking up backpacks, or completing contributions before company comes, or hanging up coats, or saying thank you to the neighbor for the ride. Is your current parenting strategy focusing more on where you are going or getting your kids to do what you want in the moment instead?

Take your time and discover what you want and next week – once you have identified where you are going – we’ll talk about what it will take to get there.

5 Tips: Kids Packing Lunch

5tips

As we said before, packing a lunch is a very useful and “real life” habit that will help your child develop responsibility, time management and confidence. It’s also a nice way to send the message that you trust your child with decisions that affect her life.

Here are 5 ways to help you make this process smooth and simple so that you can walk out of the kitchen and trust they can handle it.

1. EASY REACH: USE LOW STORAGE FOR SUPPLIES

The kitchen is where we keep all the necessities for packing lunches and making meals. Unfortunately, we often keep the clingwrap, napkins, bread and other essentials up high. Open your cabinets and open the low drawers- can your children use these items for making lunches? Or, is it stuff that can be put up high until it’s needed. You can even bring your dishes, bowls and cups to a lower height to make this easier for meals at home. In order to help your child’s independence, put anything and everything your child might need like straws, napkins, lunchbags, and so on. within easy reach.

2. GET YOUR LIDS & BOXES TOGETHER

Nothing says frustration like searching for containers and lids that don’t match. Stock one drawer, bin or cabinet and make sure that they can find matching lids and containers without needing you to “help” by digging through three buckets of plastic for them—it’s a pain. Set them up for success with matching storage containers / jars, etc. This includes drink bottles and screw tops as well!

3. PLAN AHEAD AND STOCK UP

If you have to, spend Sunday nights stocking the kitchen so the mornings are smooth and hands off. Stock one bottom drawer in the fridge with a week’s worth of juiceboxes, or other choices they can grab and pack themselves. Fill the other drawer with fruit or “healthy” options like yogurts, cheese, apple slices, premade “pbj” circle sandwiches, or applesauce, and so on. Stock the pantry or lower cabinet/drawer with a variety of snack, they can be crackers, graham crackers, or chips depending on what you’re committed to. Then tell the kids to choose one snack, one fruit and one dairy and they can choose the rest, or whatever your guildelines are. The most important part is to let THEM CHOOSE. If you’ve stocked it, it’s fair game!

4. MAKE THE SNACKS WIN-WIN

Yes, they will want cookies and junk over healthy stuff but you can set the tone for a healthy lunch by offering “treats” you can live with. This will get them excited to pack their lunches – even if you HATE those fruit rolly things they ask for every time—if they agree to pack and eat other healthy options as well, let them have some sort of “exciting” lunch food they’ve been asking for – just choose something you can live with, vs. something that will eventually make you step in and say no. Kids are willing to balance their own lunches if they can have some say in what goes in there! So, again, stock a space and set a limit (there are five days, five roll ups, and if they eat them all by Tuesday, well, then, they’re out and they’ll have to choose something else). But, if they want one everyday, they’ll have to pace themselves. The point is, your kids are practicing real life skills. You can’t expect a 13 year old to make skillful choices if they haven’t been making them for 10 years. So provide opportunities for the kids to learn.

5. AIM FOR 3 of 5 DAYS TO START

Don’t set out on this change in habit without setting some realistic goals. The first week might go great, but then everyone will fall off. Just know this will happen (it might not, but plan for it). Then, once you’ve gotten an idea of how you’d like to see the mornings go, aim for three days of the five. If you only hit two, well, it’s better than nothing. Keep going until your children trust you’re not even thinking about their lunches anymore! It takes time and it’ll never be perfect. Remember to invite them into the kitchen when you are preparing meals, this will help them feel more comfortable and practice outside of a morning or bedtime routine. Let yourself have a little room to make mistakes and it’ll be much easier to stick with it. [hr]

Kiddo, Pack Your Own Darn Lunch!

darn lunch

There’s something more delicious than a PBJ or bagel with cream cheese in your child’s lunch—something sweeter than a fresh baked cookie or chocolate milk. It’s CONFIDENCE. 100% pure confidence and responsibility…that is, if your daughter packs her own lunch, all by herself without any interference from you.

Maybe your child is already doing this and that’s terrific. But, perhaps she doesn’t – and you’re the one up early every morning, folding and zipping balanced foods into a Spongebob shaped lunchbox. If you are, the good news is you don’t have to do this and you don’t have to feel bad about quitting the job! Here’s the deal: by doing this task everyday for your child, you’re forfeiting a PERFECT opportunity to give your child some choice and real world decision making experience.

It may sound like no big deal, but a kid who packs his lunch is making decisions, testing his judgment (I can’t tell you how many times a kid has over packed or under packed, only to come home and admit they need to adjust the portions). They are practicing time management- everyday, before they leave they have to be sure they have food for the day. If they fall behind or forget, they have to figure something else out (like get the emergency lunch offered at the lunch line). When a child packs her own lunch, she realizes that she’s in charge of her decisions and is more willing to eat what she puts in there.

The biggest benefit to handing off this “chore” is that you’re saying to your kid, sure, I trust you to make a decision and stick to it. I also trust that you can do it.

Again, if packing lunch seems too simple a task to teach this valuable life lesson, I urge you to think about why you are hesitant to even consider the idea. You’ll be late. They’ll make bad choices! You don’t want to deal with the mess, and so forth. All the reasons why you “just take care of it” are the exact reasons, this is an awesome habit that will give your child some real world responsibility.

Yes, this effort will take some time and some planning, but don’t write it off, even if you fail a few days or weeks in. Try again and you’ll see that once you commit to giving it over to your child, your child will commit to taking care of it.

Got Values?

It is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” –Unknown

The new year is a chance for parents to reflect on the successes and failures of the previous year, gather information that will help in making thoughtful and intentional change in the coming year and it can be a time of inspiration and excitement when we envision what we will do differently and the benefit to everyone in the family

Instead of worrying about slipping up and preparing to simply face each parenting dilemma as it comes why not keep your fresh mindset by setting yourself up for success. Here is what I do each January when it’s time for a serious inventory of where I’ve been, where I want to be and what it will take to get there in terms of my life as a mom (although I use this exercise in every aspect of my life).

  • Find 30 minutes of quiet
  • Bring a journal and pen
  • Instead of wasting time judging, criticizing or feeling guilty about your parenting slip-ups, identify the value you were stepping on when you treated your children in a way that left you feeling crappy inside and a bit ashamed of your behavior
  • Write down that value and think about how you go about living it in your daily life. Identify the roots of this value how it brings meaning to your life and helps you determine your decisions, actions and attitudes.
  • Now write down all the ways you may be inadvertently stomping on them and what the cost is to you, your kids and your family at large. Be really honest here. It can help you live your value with more integrity and thought which will have an impact on your every day living.

Here is an example: My number one value is Radical Faith. When one of my kids calls me with a situation that I think has the potential of ending badly I am at choice as to how I will respond. If I live into my value, then I may just listen, ask question, and be ready when the phone next rings with a story of how badly things turned out. If, on the other hand, I lose site of my value, it’s reasonable that I will lecture, coax, guide, micromanage, bully my kids into taking the “appropriate” action ensuring that the situation ends as I think it should.

Now here is the really crazy thing – when I stomp on my value and interfere, it isn’t long before I feel like a louse of a mom and feel the need to apologize to my kids by picking up the phone, sending them a text or a message through Skype and apologizing for my behavior. I remind them that I believe in them and trust that whatever they decide to do is preferable to anything I might have suggested (or forced on them). I am back to my value through the back door only after causing all of us some unneeded angst.

It takes time and training and a commitment to make living your value a part of daily life – and cleaning up your mess when you stomp on it – but the rewards are numerous.

Take some time this week, before everything is in full swing and it’s suddenly summer break and get a clear picture of what your top 3 or 4 values are, how they influence your life, how you might better live them, and how they might help you create a more peaceful, respectful and rewarding life with your kids.

Why Tweens Act Like a PITA

As parents, sometimes we hit a wall. We find ourselves wondering, how did I get here and who is this aggressive child that used to be so sweet and loving? After 20 years in parent education, I can give you three good reasons why your child is no longer willing to cooperate.

1. Your relationship is injured.

Somewhere in your daily dynamics, the child who once respected you or showed you affection, has been exposed to a rip, snag or tear in the fabric of its foundation. There is something far deeper than a power struggle over taking out the trash at play. How to fix and injured relationship is similar to fixing an injured leg – time and patience and relearning how to communicate. You might have to swallow some pride– somewhere along the way, the relationship got stuck– wiggle out delicately or you’ll only injure it further.

2. The Kid is Bored Out of her Gourd

And I don’t mean the kind of bored where he is idle and needs to find something to do. The kid is bored socially because she’s not involved in community, arts or something meaningful. Even if her calendar is penciled in through 2020, she could be completely disconnected to what she’s doing. Think of adults who get stuck in dead end jobs – they go stir crazy because nothing has meaning and they feel as though life is slipping by. Kids sense this as well! Keep trying to connect a child with something that has meaning, including jobs, community service, foreign language, music and more. Now think of the happy adults you know – they’re probably contributing to their community and feel largely connected to the people around them.

3. He Thinks you Don’t Trust him

Perhaps you’re meddling, doing-for, nagging and correcting how he does this, that and everything in between. If a kid is really on you at every interference, try backing off! Maybe, just maybe he wants you to expect more from him. Here’s where contributions and self regulation can help you out. He can do his own laundry and so he should. He can make his lunch, choose his clothes and decide when to get his homework finished. These are the tiny restraints we layer on our children that cause anger and rebellion. Shift away from the back and forth over tiny details and step back to see what happens.

Bottom line? Tweens are testing boundaries and making their place in the world. Their behavior is simply a reflection of how they got here and whether or not they feel confident, secure and capable. If they’re acting out, they’re telling you something loud and clear!

Instructions for Happiness with Our Kids

Instructions for Life

As we start the year, here’s a little list by the Dalai Lama to copy, paste and print off. Put a flyer in your bathroom and one in the kids. (If you have any graphic skills, you could snazz it up a bit). Notice numbers 12, 19 and 20. A loving atmosphere is the foundation to your life, not a judging, nagging, reminding, checklisting, yelling and zero patience atmosphere. Just love – even for the kids who act at times like brats, whiners, noodlers or angry, grouchy, dramatic and complicated offspring. Remember, if you stop and show love for a child who’s “pushing your buttons” and is about to send you into a tizzy, it will build the foundation for a better future.

Similarly, if you want those around you, including you, your spouse and your children, to be happy, you must practice compassion. We cannot expect behaviors we don’t model for our children. We cannot demand they do things our way and we cannot overlook the very real factors that influence their lives, even if they’re “just kids”. We have to show up, take risks and move it forward. Otherwise, we just might end up feeling frustrated, angry and disconnected. These life lessons can be applied and shared within our families, for a happy and satisfying experience with our kiddos. Muah!

Instructions for Life by The Dalai Lama

1 . Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

3. Follow the three R’s: – Respect for self, – Respect for others and – Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.

14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.

15. Be gentle with the earth.

16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.

20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

Start the New Year with NEW Thinking 


It’s that time of year again when everyone is ready to start fresh, clean the slate and feel passionately inspired to change their lives. People everywhere, big and small & young and old, are determined to “get it right” and lose the weight, find the time, stop the madness, make amends, be kinder, and so on. Folks are ready to conquer their fears, live their bliss and identify what keeps tripping them up in life, so they can find a new way that leads to happiness.

Usually this fire in the belly attitude is nothing more than a fresh motivation pumped into previous perception. There’s 100% genuine intent – people are committed, no doubt. But then, just as inevitably as the resolutions are made, they start to crumble. I’m not saying resolutions don’t happen – that change doesn’t come to those who try, but when change does happen, there’s something far more powerful than motivation, inspiration and drive leading the way—the change is fueled by NEW THINKING.

This year, try changing your thinking first and watch as your actions follow you in a new direction. Here is how I do it. In order for me to experience significant change (I am not going to yell at the kids any more!), I first have to identify what I’m doing that isn’t working (yelling doesn’t really work all that well or for all that long) and accept that I did the best I could (no beating myself up) and then challenge myself to look at my actions in a new way. First I identify what trips me up: I yell when I am at my wits end and I don’t think anyone is listening to me and well – in all honesty – my feelings are hurt. Yes, under all the manufactured anger, I feel hurt. Then, if I had any doubts at all, I would look at whether my yelling actually worked. It doesn’t. It never did and it never will. Oh sure, I can get my kids to hop to it when I reach 10 decibles, but that’s not the same as saying “yelling works”. It doesn’t. So if I want to change, and I know the yelling isn’t working – what’s tripping me up? Why can’t I just “let it go”?

Because somewhere in my feeble little mind, I still believe that
• I have the right to yell when I want to
• That if I keep yelling, one day it will work
• That my kids are deaf and I must yell
• That things will get worse if I start talking to them like I talk to…

Hey, wait a minute. What would happen if I started to talk to my kids the way I talk to my friends and my co-workers? What if I absolutely could not, under any circumstances start screeching at my kids any more than I could at my co-workers?

Bingo – I have begun the journey to a new way of thinking. If I spend another 24 hours thinking about this, I find that I like the idea. I’m drawn to it. It provides an improvement in my life. I haven’t done anything yet. I’ve just let my brain absorb this new way of thinking. I kick it around to make sure it can stand the test. I try out scenarios and I notice that I am open to the possibility that this might actually work. After all, I would be more inclined to cooperate with people who spoke to me respectfully, than those that yelled at me. Maybe the same is true for my kids (I know this of course, but I am letting the new thinking grab hold and sniff out anything that might get in way when I put it into action).

Can you see that what I am doing is deconstructing the way I looked at the yelling? Nothing complicated. After 24 hours, I am ready to “try” it – just once, to see how I feel when I do it. I’m not basing my decision on how the kids respond, but on how I feel about myself when I choose NOT to yell. Oh, I like this. It means that I am in control. I like control. So I pick a time or a situation, where I am usually reduced to yelling. I am aware. I have my brain on and I’m not parenting from auto-pilot. And just this small shift changes everything. Because I am thinking, because I know that I am in control, because I have allowed the thinking a chance to grow small roots in my otherwise barren brain, I am excited about doing something different. And so I do. I do something different.

What I do isn’t nearly as important as what happened before the doing. Most parents find themselves spending too much time on the “doing” and not enough time on the “change my thinking”. If you know me, you know that I am, by nature, lazy. And I do not like to waste my time on crap that doesn’t work. If this didn’t work, do you think I would be using it? Fat chance. I would continue to yell and screech.

So this year, let your thinking be your guide. Don’t like where you are headed, cop a squat, breathe a bit, and then challenge your thinking. By the time you stand up, you’ll have a new path to travel and you just might find your bliss on the road to “screech free parenting”.

Happy New Year!

Holidays with Tweens

It’s the tweener week here at the Hoefenways, that’s blended for Hoefle & Hemenway, a name the kids came up with years ago when Iain and I met. Christmas is behind us. The presents are put away. The decorations are down. Three kids are home, one is due in on the 4th from Spain and another one arrives on the 6th from San Francisco.

I am holding steady as they say. This is the week that defines the holidays for us. It’s a time to celebrate life with children, who are more adult than anything else. It’s my time to dive into each of them and to re-establish contact in a new and meaningful way. Let’s face it, they aren’t the same people they were last year at this time.

I marvel at how smart, how funny, and how mercurial they are. I am awestruck at their humor, their insight, and their commitment to “showing up in their lives.” I am touched by their comments to me which include “you look hot in those jeans mom” by my 17-year-old daughter and “every kid should have a mom like you” whispered in my ear by my 15 year old, six-foot-tall son.

So here’s to the teens and the tweeners in our lives. These wonders of light and love.To my own children I say thank you. Thank you for inviting me into your world, and sharing your thoughts, your aspirations, your fears and your dreams. Thank you for sitting on my lap, for letting me braid your hair, and sharing a quiet moment of reflection. Thank you for sticking with me through all my painful parenting faux pas.

Thank you for teaching me the Wii and encouraging me as I learn to hit a ball and almost wet my pants doing it. Thank you for giggling with me and not at me, as I learn that you don’t have to actually “play” tennis, in order to “play Wii” tennis.

Thank you for loading my iPod up with all new songs and for making me my own Taylor Swift CD. Thank you for trying on the dorky pants I bought you and not calling me “stupid head” because I got the wrong style, size and color.

Thank you for loving each other. For cuddling up together during The Grinch and letting me get a glimpse of you as small children, even if just for a moment. Thank you for fixing each other french toast and eating together around the table, something that happens less and less these days, as kids grow and some move out.

Most of all, thank you for choosing me as your parent.

For all you parents out there, who wonder what the world is like with five teens in the house – there is only one word to describe it – MIRACULOUS!

Do not waste a single moment with these magical beings. Before you know it, they will have moved on and you may find yourself trying to carve a spot in their new and exciting lives. Take a few moments, and look beyond the external expression of who they are and look into the hearts, the minds and the spirits of these young people.

There is much joy to be found in those sparkling eyes.

Happy Holidays!

Vicki
2009