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Monday, April 30, 2012


There is a scripture in the Bible which reads, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)  What incredibly wise words!

Mom's often feel conflicted by the obligations and responsibilities they have for their children and the things they think they are missing out in the world.  No need to worry.  Right now is the time to give your children the best you have to offer.   They deserve a mom who is wholly committed to their welfare and happiness.   At this point in time, there is nothing as important as the children who put their love and trust in you.  There will be time to pursue other interests soon enough.  Children do grow up.  They do become independent.  They do leave the nest.

So, don't begrudge this stage of your life or wish you weren't stuck at home with the kids.  Enjoy it and make the most of it!  Your children will thank you  :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Accidents happen

Accidents happen.  It was so traumatic when my oldest (who was 1 1/2 at the time) tripped and fell against the outside corner of a wall and cut open her forehead, needing several stitches.  Head wounds really bleed!  I don't think a mom is ever prepared to see her child suffer but there are things you can do to help lessen the pain...if only emotionally.

This seems to be a common theme I have but I'll say it again...the most important thing you can do for your child is to remain calm.  You might be freaking out inside but you need to show your child a calm and in-control exterior.  He is upset enough.  It will only make things worse for him to see his mother panicky.  No matter how scared you are,  talk calmly and soothingly and reassure him that everything will be all right.

Even big kids get owies!
Always keep a first aid kit at home and in your car.  Restock it every year and replace items that have expiration dates.

Enter the phone numbers of your doctor and hospital and other emergency professionals into your cell phone.  You never know when you might need them.

Keep a supply of red washcloths to clean up cuts and scrapes.  Some children (and parents) are especially bothered by the sight of blood.  Red washcloths will make it not quite so obvious. 

Any time you are in doubt about the seriousness of your child's injury, call your doctor and get her advice.  It's better to err on the side of caution when dealing with the health of your family.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Yesterday I was visiting with a friend and she brought up the subject of lying.  That truly is one of the difficult challenges of being a mother...dealing with a child who tells lies.  You do all the right things.  You set a good example.  You have a loving, open environment and still he lies.  How do you deal with it?

The number one thing I learned - If you are 100% sure that your child did something wrong, don't ask him if he did it. Don't give him another opportunity to lie.   It's far better to calmly state to him that you know he did (whatever) and you're going to work with him to come up with an appropriate discipline.  Don't argue with him.  Involve him in fixing the problem.  Be matter-of-fact about the whole thing.

Make sure the punishment for lying isn't worse than the punishment for whatever it was he did.  What kid wants to confess to a lie if he knows he's going to get in worse trouble for admitting it? 

It's not going to help to probe into the reasons why your child did what he did either.  Most of the time it was probably an impulsive act.  If you ask him why, he really might not know why.

Sometimes you're just not going to get the truth out of a kid, even though you are almost positive he's the culprit.  You might have to let it go for now but take comfort in the fact that most lies come to light eventually.  It's hard to live a lie for long.  (We're talking about the big lies, not the little ones like swiping a cookie out of the kitchen).

Please keep the punishment in proportion to the crime.  Express disappointment, come up with a plan and move on.

Unfortunately, some kids are more prone to lying than others.  With eight children, some of mine were quite adept at telling lies while others would be horrified at even the mere thought.  It's good to have a few guidelines to work with but each situation is going to be different.  You're going to have to trust your instincts and do your best.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Frugal Friday!

So, today is Frugal Friday!  There's so much to talk about concerning living happily within ones means that I'm going to use Fridays to focus on the topic (besides, the title is catchy!)

Living frugally isn't about deprivation.  It's about making the most of the resources you have.  It's about spending wisely.  It's about creativity.  It's about choices.  It's all about attitude.

I know a young woman who is amazing!  By many standards, she and her husband live on a modest salary yet because they are both very thrifty and careful with their spending, they were able to buy a nice home, drive newer cars which are paid for, are able to take an occasional trip, have no debt and even have money in a savings account.  They are my heroes!

Another young woman I know has more than twice the money available to work with and is struggling in debt.  She and her husband both work to support their more lavish lifestyle but neither seem very happy.  They are constantly worrying about money and complaining about how hard it is to make ends meet.  Choices, my friend, choices...

In today's economy, it's more important than ever that we take control of our money and our situation and make them work for us.  Some things we have no control over but many things we do and the number one thing we have control over is our own attitude.  We'll start with that!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

De-cluttering Part 3 - the kid's room

Another good starting place in your de-cluttering adventure is the children's room.  Children are constantly growing out of their old clothes and are constantly acquiring new stuff.  Chances are good that their room earns the "out-of-control" status fairly often.

The number one suggestion for de-cluttering the room of a preschooler is to do it while your child is not at home.  Not that you're going to get rid of beloved toys and belongings, but sometimes they don't understand that broken toys can't be kept or that their favorite shirt no longer fits.  They haven't developed the ability to reason logically yet.  Because of that, it's easier to make those decisions without help.

For school-age children, I suggest a two step approach.  First, give her advance notice that you're going to help her make it easier for her to keep her room nice.  Make it sound like a positive thing.  Set a date about one week in the future, probably a Saturday.  That way, no surprises.  Maybe she is noticing that you are de-cluttering other parts of the house so it doesn't seem like you're singling out her room to invade.  Then, involve her in the process.  Work together in deciding what goes and what stays.  Teach her about sharing unused things with others not as fortunate.  You might be surprised that she is actually getting rid of more things than you would.  Explain to her by doing this periodically, it gives her more space and makes it easier for her to keep her room clean.

For teenager's rooms, keep the door closed and sigh...  :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

De-cluttering Part 2 - the kitchen

I think that the best place to start de-cluttering is the kitchen.  Why?  Well, there's very little sentimentality attached to the things we find in our refrigerator or cupboards.  It's easy to toss out something that you can no longer tell what it originally was or you have no intention of eating...ever!  Yesterday, I went through my cupboards and threw away an unopened jar of sauerkraut (I don't even LIKE  sauerkraut!), raisins whose expiration date was 2008, expired pudding mixes, spices, vitamins, cake mixes, and weird impulse items I will never make.  From the refrigerator, I pulled out wilting veggies (my intentions were good though!), leftovers from a week ago (if they haven't been eaten by now, they never will be eaten), and salad dressings that have been there a little too long.  My cupboards and refrigerator look neat and orderly and there's extra space!  I kept track of the things I got rid of that need to be replaced (like the spices, some of the mixes and salad dressings) so I can get them the next time I go to the grocery store.  But there's room now to hold the things I regularly use and need.

Next in the kitchen is the miscellaneous gadgets and equipment that seems to accumulate and the ever-famous junk drawer.  And then a good cleaning and the kitchen is done! Well, maybe not done but you now have room to organize what you have and can make your kitchen more efficient and useable.  It's a good start!  And maybe the momentum will carry over to the next de-cluttering project!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Do you ever want to be more organized?  Do you wish maintaining your home were easier?  Are you tired of the mounds of possessions taking over?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, it's time to de-clutter your life!

It's so easy to acquire possessions.  We go shopping and see a great deal on something we like.  We see a yard sale and stop by just for a look.  Catalogs arrive in the mail with wonderful things we didn't know we couldn't do without.  Friends give us their cast-offs.  Special occasions require gift giving.  But, if it's so easy to bring things INTO our homes, why is it so hard for things to LEAVE our house?  Keep in mind that interests change, fashion changes, children's stages change...we don't need to hold onto things that no longer apply to our current life.  If we don't occasionally get rid of things, we will eventually run out of space to put all the stuff we DO use.

So, the first step in creating order in your home and life is weeding out the things you no longer need, use or want.  You can start small and devote 30 minutes a day (the length of a basic TV sit-com episode) to tackle a few drawers at a time or go all out and spend a week-long marathon of de-cluttering.   You can focus on one room at a time.  Whatever works for you and your schedule.  Just do something!  It feels so good!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today is my husband's birthday and he always knows what to expect from his children.  For the last 28 years, each of the kids has written their daddy a birthday letter and picture, highlighting the events of the previous year.  The littlest ones just draw a picture.  When they are old enough to talk, they tell me what they want to say and I write it for them until they can write for themselves.  We then gather all the letters and pictures together and present it to Dad on his birthday.

These simple little packets are a treasure!  They're like time capsules of our family.  It's so fun to see how the kids grew from little children to adults.  This is one tradition I'm glad we started so long ago and hope my kids continue it...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More isn't always better

My daughter is getting married in two weeks and today she showed me the cute little apartment she and her future husband are going to move into.  As I walked through the empty rooms I thought back to the time my husband and I furnished our first apartment.  We had so little in the way of furnishings but were happy with the hand-me-downs we acquired and the well thought out purchases we made.  We didn't need a lot to make us happy.

More isn't always better.  Somehow, along the road of life, we accumulate more and more possessions, thinking that we need them or that they will add to the richness of our lives.  Instead we find that they are only things, after all.  They cannot make us happy.  It's the experiences and memories and relationships that give us joy and happiness. 

We all need a certain amount of things to be comfortable and manage our homes.  But beware of advertising that tries to convince you that you must have --- to raise a child or clean your house or cook your meals or be successful in any aspect of your life.

If you have a good relationship with your husband and children and take care of the things you do have, the humblest home is a lovely and welcoming place!  Without them, the most lavish mansion is nothing but a shell. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Five year old with splinter in pinkie finger, "OW, OW, OW!  IT'S GONNA HURT!  DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT!  OW! OW! etc...
Me (pointing to ceiling), "Hey!  Look at that spider on the ceiling!  (imaginary spider)
Five year old (eyes searching ceiling), "Where, where?"
Me (quickly removing splinter), "Splinter's gone."
Five year old, "Huh?  When did you do that?"

Ah, yes, the fine art of distraction.  Try it sometime!  (and watch out for those imaginary spiders!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Unloved Box

It seems like there are always toys and kid stuff scattered all over the house.  You tell your children to pick up and put away their things but they missed some...or a lot.  You don't want to nag and make a big deal out of it.  You don't want to be constantly picking up after them.  So, what do you do?  Bring out the Unloved Box.  Gather up all the miscellaneous stuff that isn't where it belongs and put it in the Unloved Box.  When your child starts looking for a missing item, take him to look in the Unloved Box.  Lo and behold!  The missing item!  To get it back, he will need to earn it back, usually through some additional chores or special project you come up with for him to do.  At the end of the week (usually on Saturday morning) have a time set aside for your kids to retrieve the rest of their unloved things and earn them back; for small things, small assignments and for larger amounts or repeat offenders, more involved projects. 

Usually just a casual mention of getting out the Unloved Box will get kids scurrying all over the house to find their things and put them away.  Mission accomplished!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Springtime Activities

Now that it's Spring, it's time to get out of the house with the kids and enjoy the beauties of nature and the community you live in.  Inexpensive adventures are all around you!  Here are a few...

1. Neighborhood parks - Ok, the first one is pretty obvious.  You are probably very well acquainted with the local park in your neighborhood.  That's good!  But, what about some of the other parks within a five mile radius?  Sometimes kids get bored with the same old thing so explore other parks and see what they have to offer.

2. Take a hike - Usually there are places to hike within a short distance of where you live.  Start out slow and teach the kids some basic orienteering skills, like trail map reading and using a compass, and what to do if you get lost.

3. Community Parks and Recreation programs often offer free outdoor concerts and activities.  Take advantage of them.

4.  Start a garden.  It can be something really small or more ambitious but let your kids be in charge of growing something.  I'd suggest the Square Foot Gardening approach.  It doesn't take up much room and it's possible to grow a variety of things in a small space.

5. Often zoos and children's museums have family and/or yearly memberships and even though the price might seem high initially, you usually get more than your money's worth over the year.  Also, by being a member, you get reduced rates on classes and special events.

6. Start a fitness program for yourself and your children.   Map out a route in your neighborhood and take a daily walk, run or bike ride with the kids.  Everyone benefits!

These are just a few ideas.  I'm sure you have many more.  If you'd like to share, please do so! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Behavior Chips

As children grow and change, your way of dealing with behavior problems has to change too.  Time out works for toddlers and preschoolers but it isn't effective for children once they reach school age.  Probably the most effective method we came up with was what we called Behavior Chips.  These chips were nothing more than white poker chips.  Each child had a small bowl of ten chips.  The goal was to see how many chips they could maintain throughout the day.  Chips were taken away for various misbehavior, like hitting, back-talking, lying, teasing, whatever.  If someone got below five chips, they usually were given an early dinner and early bedtime.  And, we tried to do something special for the kids who still had nine or ten chips at the end of the day.

Someone once asked why I didn't just give chips for good behavior.  Well, the idea was that we start each new day perfect.  Each day is a fresh beginning, no matter how bad the previous day was.  So, we start out with a perfect number of chips and go from there.

Occasionally, we played around with the idea of using the red and blue chips to reward various good behavior but that seemed to complicate things.   Like most things, the easier something is, the more likely it is to be successful. 

Although it was a simple idea, the kids responded to it and it provided a visual reminder to them of how they were doing throughout the day.  Not bad for a few poker chips  :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The firstborn

Studies have been conducted and books written on the subject of birth order and how it shapes ones personality.  Even within the framework of first, middle and last born children, there are so many variables to make it hard to make judgements based solely on birth order.  Technically, I am the third of four children, making me a middle child, yet my younger sister was born 10 years after me so I was also the youngest child for ten years.  But, there is one position that stays constant...that of the firstborn.  He or she is the one who changes your life forever.  One day you are childless, and the next day you have a tiny bundle in your arms.  Whether you realize it or not, you have expectations of what motherhood will be like and that little baby will either validate those expectations or completely surprise you (that's an understatement!).

Your firstborn also has a unique role in the family.  He or she is going to be the trailblazer for the rest of the children.  Every milestone will be new, not only for him, but for you too.  You and she will be constantly learning together how to navigate the experiences that make your family what it is.  As mothers, we tend to react in one of two ways - either we're overprotective because we don't want to see our child struggle or we thrust too much responsibility on her at an early age.  It would be wise to make a concerted effort to avoid both extremes.  We have to let our firstborn develop at his or her own pace and neither hold her back or push her too soon.  It's hard enough for the poor kid anyway!

A special thank you to my firstborn daughter for setting such a good example for the rest of her brothers and sisters and for being so forgiving of my mistakes! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

News travels fast!

I love technology!  I love skyping with family, love texting, love Facebook, love blogging.  With all these advances, I can keep in touch with friends from elementary school and high school, cousins, nieces and nephews I never got to know in person, and interact with people who share similar interests and ideas.  I can keep in touch with my children and get messages to them quickly if I need to.  With all that said, there are some things that shouldn't be learned through social media.  If there's something personal happening in your life (like a birth, death, illness, wedding engagement, divorce etc.), you might want to consider letting the people who are closest to you know about it before sharing it with the world.  A quick phone call (or text if you can't reach the person by phone) to the important people in your life will avoid hurt feelings, misunderstandings, miscommunications and possible offense.  Word travels so fast these days and you want to make sure the special people in your life are the first to know the news!

PS...There are some things that you shouldn't share with anyone.  But hopefully, you know that already!  If not, I'll cover that some other time...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tax Time!

Hopefully by now you have completed your taxes for the year and are ready to cross that off your to-do list for another year. Before you do that however, let's go over a few things.

1. Be sure to make a hard copy of your completed return and accompanying forms (even if you have the information stored on your computer). 
2. Put the forms and all related documents in a file marked Taxes 2012 and file it away in a safe place. See post: Family Command Center
3. Make note of the kinds of receipts you needed for this year and make a new file to hold the same kinds of receipts for next year's taxes.
4. Make any adjustments in tax withholding if you ended up owing taxes or had too much money withheld.
5. Look towards the rest of the year and determine if you will have any unusual circumstances that will require extra documentation.  Make sure to file that information as soon as it happens!
6.  Shred and/or destroy any receipts you have left over from last year (or any other year) that weren't needed to complete your taxes. 
7. Try to get your taxes completed early next year.  Then you won't have to think about it in April.
8. Remember you need to keep all your tax returns indefinitely.   Please don't lose them!

Did I forget anything? 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Nothing is permanent but change"

The ancient philosopher Heraclitus (about 500 BC) is widely credited for the following..."The only constant in life is change" and "Nothing is permanent but change."  These words of wisdom are as true today as they were thousands of years ago.

Knowing this should give you some measure of comfort as you struggle with the daily demands of motherhood.  Most likely, the things that are a big concern today will not be an issue a year or two from now.  When my daughter was three, I didn't think she'd ever be toilet-trained.  When seven of my kids had chicken pox at the same time, I was sure the sickness would never end!  I didn't think my daughter would ever learn how to drive.  The upheaval of a move seems to be endless.  When the septic system failed, it seemed like the end of the world.  Whatever the problem you're facing today, the one thing you can be sure of is that it won't last forever.

Of course, when one problem gets resolved, it seems like another takes its place.  But at least it will be something different!  :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Gripe Write

We called it the Gripe Write.  During a particularly frustrating time when my kids seemed to be constantly whining and complaining, I came up with the idea of having them write down their complaints instead of running to me with every little tattle.  You could almost say it was a very primitive form of blog  :)  My oldest was eleven at the time and her brothers and sisters (who could write) were ten, eight and seven.  The only condition I placed on their comments was that if they wrote something in the Gripe Write, they also had to find something positive to write about in the accompanying Love List.  (The Love List wasn't nearly as fun to read as the Gripe Write!)  For some reason, they really liked writing their complaints and their dad and I really enjoyed reading them (in private, of course).   The kids used the Gripe Write for a couple of years and the whining did lessen during that time.  I kept these little notebooks and every once in a while, the kids will ask about them and we'll get them out and get a good laugh over them.  Fun times...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

We make a difference!

Every so often someone in the news will make a comment that discounts the role of mothers in society.  Not wanting to turn this into a political post, I won't go into the details that prompted this entry but I do want to comment on it.

If you have chosen motherhood as your profession, life work and career, you made an often thankless, exhausting but utterly fulfilling and rewarding choice.  Your opinions and comments may be brushed off as unimportant.  You may be ignored by those who have chosen a different path.  You may wonder when YOU get to have a vacation or retire.  None of these matter in the long run.  Your decision to raise and nurture the next generation has far greater impact on society than almost anything else.  A strong and stable family is likely to raise well adjusted, successful children regardless of income size.

Rather than focusing on who has the hardest job, I think mothers should work together to support and encourage each other.  We don't have to feel like we are alone in our struggles and challenges.  We can learn from one another and gain strength from each other.

There may be people who think of us as irrelevant, but to our children, we are the most important person in the world.  And, we DO make a our families, our schools and community, our society and the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


There's a place for labels - on the outside of a can.  If the label reads Pineapple, you can be pretty sure it has pineapple inside.  No surprises there.  Where labels don't belong is on children.  Think of some of the labels that are commonly put on children...stupid, lazy, bad, naughty, hyperactive, dumb or even the positive ones like pretty, smart, artistic, athletic.  Do these labels represent the whole child?  Of course not!  A child is not like a can of pineapple, made up of only one ingredient or trait.  A child is made up of many unique and special qualities and to put a label on him is to do him a great injustice.

If a child is told he's stupid, he might begin to think that he is stupid.  If she's told she's bad, she might think she's bad.  How sad is that?  If she's told she's the pretty one, does that change the way she looks at herself or others?   Does that help her to develop her potential or to narrow it?  If at all possible, it's best to avoid labels altogether.

Try instead to focus on behavior or accomplishments....just please don't call your child a bad girl or dumb kid or some other negative name.  It really hurts!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


For a while I was really passionate about exercising.  I went to the gym 4-5 times every week and at the end of three months, I could really feel and see a difference.  Then something came up and I missed a few days.  Then a few days turned into weeks and then months and now it's been four months without regular exercise.  My inclination is to make more excuses and do nothing about it.

It seems like many good intentions go through the same cycle...we start out excited and are happy to see positive results.  But, for some reason, the habit gets broken and it's so hard to restart.  It doesn't matter whether it's exercising, dieting, parenting, cleaning...these things take much effort.  And even though experts say it takes 28 days to make a habit, I think it only takes one or two days to break one.

Rather than calling yourself a failure and giving up, it's ok to start over and begin again.  Each step you take in a positive direction is a step closer to reaching a goal.  If you're trying to stop yelling at your children and you get off track, don't beat yourself up about it.  Admit that you're human and try again.  Watch out for the triggers that caused you to relapse and learn from the setback.  The only thing that's not ok is quitting.

Now, I'm off for a run...

Monday, April 9, 2012


Would you like some?  Yes, thank you!
Whatever happened to manners?  It's a rare (but welcome) sight to see children who use "please" and "thank you" and other expressions of respect towards adults and other children.  We might consider letting our children know that being polite will bring much more satisfying results than being demanding.  It isn't something that they know instinctively, we have to teach them, remind them constantly, and set a good example for them. This applies also to things like table manners and manners in public.  Our children aren't little animals.  They are capable of learning how to act but we have to teach them.  Please work with your children!  Thank you!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just wait until she's a teenager!

Into each of our lives comes pivotal moments, experiences that change or reinforce the direction we are traveling.  Some are monumental but others are small, seemingly inconsequential experiences that, only in hindsight, can we see their importance.

One of those moments came for me many years ago during a casual conversation between me and an older lady I knew.  I was holding my sweet little newborn daughter in my arms and this lady came up to me and commented on how beautiful she was and then she said it..."Just wait until she's a teenager!  All teenagers are rebellious and troublemakers!"  I couldn't believe my ears!  She was serious!  It almost sounded like a curse in a fairy tale..."Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will turn into a monster!"  Just like any good queen in the fairy tale, I held my daughter closer and vowed that I would break the horrible curse.  Really though, her words sunk deep in me and I can still remember them and the way they made me feel.  The poor lady who uttered those words, probably had no idea what an impact they would have on me or on my family.

What this lady did was strengthen my resolve to take my role of motherhood seriously.  I knew that the way I treated my children while they were young would impact the people they grew up to be.  I knew I could not be lazy and just assume my kids would turn out ok regardless of what I did.  I was the one who had to teach them values and principles and teach them about choices and consequences.  Other people would have influence over them but during their impressionable first years, it was up to me to set the foundation for their future growth.  As with anything of importance, preventative care is far more desirable than emergency repair!

Mothers, you are important!  Never forget it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Emergency preparedness

We live in uncertain times, with natural disasters, unemployment, unexpected illness and a whole list of other unpredictable crises. Since becoming a mom, I can remember two major earthquakes (and several minor ones), one hurricane, two floods, two snowstorms which left us without power for a week at a time, and several other power outages.  My husband went through a period of unemployment and a major heart attack.  At times such as these, having emergency supplies of food, money and other necessities, can give welcome peace of mind.  It is recommended that everyone have at least a three days supply of food, water and other necessities, preferably much more.

You don't have to spend a lot of money acquiring an emergency supply of food.  Start small and watch for good prices on canned goods, staples and other food your family eats that has a long shelf life.  If you usually buy 4 cans of fruit, buy an extra 4 for storage.  Do this every time you your budget and space allows.  The goal is to have at least one month of food.  When you reach that goal, try for three months.  Also, don't forget non-food items like toilet paper, sanitary supplies, diapers, hygiene supplies and other things unique to your family.

 Do you have a way to prepare your food if you have no power?  How will you heat your home?  These are considerations to discuss with your family, especially if you have small children.  Do you have a way of reaching family members if an emergency occurs and some are at school or work?  Do you have an out-of-the-area contact person for everyone to touch base with in the event someone gets separated?  Do you have a working smoke detector?  Do you have an escape plan and does everyone know what it is?   These and many other questions should be addressed and understood by every member of the family. 

Hopefully, you will never need to use your emergency supplies but you don't want to find yourself in the middle of a crisis and not have the things your family needs to live.   The time to start gathering these things and educating your family is now.  Someday, you might be very glad you did!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time Out

Probably the most widely used form of discipline for toddlers and preschoolers is "time out".  The idea behind it is simple...your child sits in a corner or in his room or wherever, until he is in control and ready to behave.  In practice, it isn't quite so straightforward.  Some children are so sensitive, just the idea of going to time out can make them break down into tears.  Some think it's a big joke.  Some kick and scream the whole time.  But the idea behind having a place for your child to get in control is still the best option you have.  Spanking is not acceptable.  Trying to reason with him is futile.  Ignoring bad behavior can make it worse.   So, how do you make it work?

As I have said before and will probably say again, consistency is the most important thing you can do to make time out work for you.  One warning is enough.  If you tell your child you are going to put her in time out if she continues ---, and she continues, put her in time out.  No more reminders.  No threats.  Just do it.   Calmly escort her (or carry her) to the designated place and tell her she's there because she did ---.  If she jumps off the chair and runs away, calmly bring her back and tell her the same thing.  If she kicks and screams, calmly wait until she's finished.

You'll need to set a specific time for her to stay there, probably five minutes or so.  Five minutes can seem like a long time for a four year old.  I usually set the timer after he or she has finally decided that Mom means business and sits without tantrums or runs off.  Then after the time is up, it's important to give her a hug and let her know that you have confidence that she won't do --- again.  If she does it again, the process begins over.  Sure, it takes time but time spent now will be time you don't have to deal with out of control behavior later.

Childhood, especially early childhood is a time of testing for your child.  She is learning her limits and learning about cause and effect.  It doesn't have to become a power struggle if you are matter-of-fact about the whole thing and remember to be consistent in the things you say and do.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Did you ever have a special stuffed animal or blanket that you loved while you were growing up?  Do you still have it?  I can answer yes to both of those questions!  My special love blanket (my blankie) is folded in a cedar chest but it still brings warm fuzzy feelings when I see it.

His favorite pink poodle 
I think all children benefit by having something special to hold onto when they go to bed, or when they are stressed or in unfamiliar places or situations.  There is something magical about the feel and smell (although I hope it gets washed occasionally!) of a loved blanket or doll or stuffed animal or whatever brings your baby or child comfort.  It's like having an old friend to snuggle up with.  Usually babies show a preference for a certain blanket or animal at an early age.  Use that to your advantage.  Bring it with you when you take baby out in the car.  Tuck that special blanket around her when you put her down for her nap.  When you have to leave her with a babysitter, she will have something to reassure her that she's not alone.

One of my daughters had a stuffed brown pig that she loved and carried around everywhere.  She got into the habit of picking the fur off the poor thing until it was totally bald (that took a few years).  Such an ugly creature by that time but still well loved!  I recently found it packed away in a trunk and gave it to her.  She is now a grown married woman but acted like a little girl again, finding a long lost friend.  :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The dreaded in-laws!

Ah yes, the dreaded in-laws!  Actually, I hope you have a wonderful relationship with all of your husband's family.  If not, you are not alone.

I did not get off to a good start with my in-laws.  I was quiet and shy.  They were loud and outgoing. I was intimidated.  The more intimidated I felt, the more I withdrew.  The more I withdrew, the less they got to know me and I them.  This led to misconceptions on both our parts.  As I think about it, if I had to do it over again, I'd do things different.  I'd keep foremost in my mind that they are good people who raised my husband and helped make him the man I fell in love with.  They were only concerned for his welfare, just as my mother was concerned for mine.  Just because they did things different, doesn't mean they did things wrong.  They were going through their own challenges and struggles and doing the best they could.

Maybe you can learn from my mistakes.  Accept that they are different.  Look for good things they did that you can implement in your own family.  Don't withdraw!  If you are intimidated, share that with your husband and enlist his help and ask for suggestions but try not to criticize.  You don't want to put him in the middle of a conflict between you and them.  Find some common ground, some interest or hobby that is shared.  The biggest thing in common that you have with them is your husband/their son.  That is enough reason to try to make things work.  Good luck!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Your childhood family

As you work to build a family with your husband and children, don't forget another set of relationships that need to be strengthened...the families you and your husband came from.  Today I'll talk about your family and tomorrow I'll cover his.

Your parents and siblings can provide a wealth of strength and support as you embark upon new and unfamiliar territory.  Your parents have the advantage of experience and the wisdom of hindsight that can prove helpful and your siblings probably grew up in similar circumstances and understand you better than most people.   It's time to put aside the childhood differences you had with your brothers and sisters and learn to get along with them as friends and peers, because that's what they are (or should be).  Relationships change over the years and you are not children any more.  You need each other.  It's easy to neglect this relationship because you no longer live in the same house so you will have to actively work on maintaining and strengthening these ties with them.  Of all the relationships you develop, the one with the family you grew up in will always be part of your life.  So, forgive each other if necessary for past wrongs and build a new relationship based on your shared experiences and common goals and interests.  Your children will benefit by having loving aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents in their lives.  And your life will be richer for the bond you develop with your brothers, sisters and parents.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

She won't clean her room!!!

Your six year old daughter won't clean her room.  She whines and yells that it's too hard! You know she's old enough and capable of doing the job.  You are getting frustrated.  Is this a familiar scenario?  Let's talk about it...

Have you ever looked at a project and thought it was too hard and you didn't know where to start?  What if you had instructions?  What if you had a checklist to walk you through the process?  What if someone showed you how to do it?  Would that make the project less daunting?  Do you see where I'm going with this?  Our children are no different.

Too often we assume our children know how to do something when we haven't really taken the time to teach them just how to do it or what constitutes a finished job.  This applies to most jobs we expect our kids to do...whether it's cleaning their room, doing laundry, vacuuming, washing dishes and so forth. Kids don't automatically know how to do things...just like us!

Going back to your little Mom, you have several options.  You can help her break the job down into smaller parts.  Maybe you can tell her to put the dirty clothes in the hamper first.  When she's done with that, she can pick up her toys. Next have her fold her clean clothes and put them away.   Then she can straighten her shelves and make her bed.  You could make a little checklist for her and have her check off the steps when she's completed.  You can teach her at a time when neither of you are stressed out or in a hurry.  You'll probably have to work with her for a while until she gets the hang of it.  But she'll learn.

Last but not least, remember that you can't expect what you don't inspect!  So, check her job and give her lots of compliments and praise for a job well done.

An hour later...I forgot something about cleaning rooms!  A room that is too full of clothes and toys is hard for anyone to clean!  Help your child out by streamlining her belongings and making sure there is a place for everything!