Thursday, August 10, 2017

Resources That Will Change Your Parenting Game for the Better

Here at our house, this is the last full week of summer! All you parents out there probably know that bittersweet feeling that comes along this time of year. You are just a teensy bit glad (or perhaps not so teensy) to see the kids off to school again and your life gets back to some semblance of a regular routine.

But then, you realize that one more summer just ended and we only get 18 summers with our kids. So there is a bit of sadness too. If you have little ones starting school for the first time, this bittersweet is even more profound.

If you are a little bit type A like me, I have found a group of resources that might just raise your spirits on this back-to-school journey. What I love about these resources is that they fit right in with most of the topics I write about here on the blog--parenthood, kindness, outdoor play, and connecting with your kids. 

Plus most of these resources come at just the right time for back-to-school. There are tons of useful tools in this bundle that will help you get prepared and organized instead of feeling frantic and rushed.

Okay, here's the lowdown on my favorites:

Parenthood

This year I've written not only about parenting research, but some of the challenges we face as parents too--yelling, social media, and tantrums.

These resources go even further to help you find ways to keep your "chin up" when parenting gets hard:

Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World by Zig Ziglar



If Only They'd Told Me: All The Things You Wish You'd Been Told About Pregnancy, Parenting, and Relationships by Natalie Cutler-Welsh




Encouraging Kindness


Another goal I've had this year is really focusing on encouraging kindness and empathy in my kids. Luckily, many folks agree with me on this and there are a lot of fun tools, books and research to back this up.

Here are a few more wonderful resources for promoting kindness in your home:




Random Acts of Kindness Cards for Kids by Lauren Tamm & Rachel Norman






Hero Training! Kid's Character Challenge by Liz Millay






Play

If you've been reading this blog for long, you know that play is a hot topic for me. Play is the real work of childhood and cannot be replaced by worksheets or schedules. These resources will enliven your sense of adventure and help you encourage free, outdoor play.



Back-to-School

With a new school year comes new opportunities, new challenges and new questions for ourselves and our kids. One way to help everyone get off to the right start is with good organization and these resources are perfect for that:



Back to School Planner 2017-18 by Laura Rizer






Student Planner by Jolanthe Erb



Now, we are parents; we don't have time to go to multiple online shops or wait for these to be shipped to us. The best news about these resources (besides the low price) is that they are all put together into one simple bundle that is delivered digitally. That's right, you can read all these resources on your mobile device (perhaps while waiting in the car line at school?)

It's the Parenting Super Bundle and it only comes around once a year. All these resources plus hundreds more: 35 eBooks, 23 printables, 10 eCourses, 9 workbooks, 2 audios, and 1 membership site--all designed to help you (for a tiny price).


Don't miss your chance! This bundle is only available until Aug. 14th!







Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Research Reveals the Best Reason Yet to Put Down Your Phone

I got my first smartphone when my oldest was a newborn (summer 2009). I had told my husband for months that I didn't need one (he already had one) but my handy little flip phone died and I didn't have much choice.

Game changer

Honestly, I don't know how I would have survived those newborn days without that little hand-held link to the outside world. He was a very fussy baby who hated the car seat so we spent many hours at home...usually with him strapped to my chest and me bouncing on an exercise ball (the only thing that calmed him).

My phone was my life line during those months. I called my mom to cry about why he wouldn't sleep, I posted cute pictures of him on Facebook and I could Google every question I had about newborn habits.

Now fast forward a few years and we are all on our phones a lot. Being a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, the smart phone has become an irreplaceable tool for me. They are so powerful now that I can craft a graphic for my blog on my phone while my kids play on the playground.

But what about the negative underbelly of all this phone time? I have found myself saying, "wait a minute I just need to do this one thing," to my kids a lot more now that they are older and their demands can usually wait longer.



But how does this make them feel? How do you feel when your spouse says, "wait a minute" while typing away on his/her phone when you are trying to talk?

Luckily, the innovative researchers at Illinois State University are beginning to help answer these questions with hard data. Their most recent study considered how the parent-child relationship is affected by parents who are distracted by their phones. Now that's a good research question!

The study:

- 170 couples with young children

- parents were asked about their problematic mobile device usage (e.g., not being able to resist checking messages, thinking about messages a lot)

- parents were asked about "technoference" in their relationship with their child (e.g., how often devices interrupt conversations)

- parents were asked about their children's behavior (e.g., internalizing behavior like whining or sulking and externalizing behavior like hyperactivity or hot temper)

The Findings:

 - parents who reported more problems managing their device usage were more likely to experience technoference in their relationship with their child. In other words, parents who were "hooked" on their phones were more likely to allow this to interfere with their relationship with their child.

- also, kids whose parents showed signs of technoference were more likely to exhibit behavioral issues. In other words, in situations where parent-child relationships were disrupted by technology, kids were more likely to exhibit negative behavior (both internalizing and externalizing).

** Okay, the usual caveats with social science research apply here. Although this is a well-conducted study, we cannot from one study prove causation. We do not know if the technoference experienced in these parent-child relationships is causing the children's negative behavior OR if the parents of kids who exhibit behavioral problems are more likely to be "hooked" on their phones (perhaps as a distraction from misbehaving kids).

However, what we can tell from this study is important, even groundbreaking--the interaction we have with our phones has the potential to impact our relationship with our kids (either through technoference or through escapism).

When you think about it, this is a daunting reality. A device that started out as a tool now has the power to influence our parenting. These devices are not going away; we all know that. So how do we manage our phone time and our relationships with our kids?



I struggle with this as much as anyone but the one idea I keep coming back to is VALUE. I never want my kids to feel like I value technology over them. I don't want anyone important in my life to feel that way. I never want to value online relationships more than real-life ones. The same goes for my kids--I never want them to value technology more than in-person relationships.

To remind myself of these values, I've created a printable mantra I call "In Our Home." It simply outlines the values that we hold in our home regarding technology use and relationships.

I would love to share this printable with you! Just fill out the box below and it will be sent to your inbox for you to print and hang up as a reminder for you too.












Thursday, August 3, 2017

Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week by Trading Up Your Pump (and Helping Moms in Need)

World Breastfeeding Week is this week! What is it all about? Why should we bother having so much attention paid to something that is just a natural part of human reproduction?

Well, as any of you who have breastfed know, it is natural but it requires support. In many places in the world, women are provided little support to succeed in breastfeeding. A few facts:

- With only 44% of the world’s newborns put to the breast within one hour after their arrival,
the need for more supportive medical facilities and staff is REAL

- Do the math! Investing in breastfeeding is one of the smartest investments a country can make to ensure a smarter, healthier population


Breastfeeding is a win-win situation for mom, baby, and society, but families need support. Part of that support is having access to a breast pump that meets the family's needs. Pumping can allow mom to work outside the home and can allow dad (or other caregivers) to be a part of bonding and caring for baby.

I was just introduced to a very cool program that allows moms to trade in their insurance-provided breast pump for a better model. The used pump is then donated to a mom who might not otherwise have access to a pump. Another win-win!

Here's all the info on this program called "Chance to Choose":

WHAT IS THE CHANCE TO CHOOSE PROGRAM? An innovative breast pump “trade-up” program which allows moms to trade-in their current or insurance-provided pump in exchange for a brand new pump of their choosing at a heavily reduced price. The traded-in pumps will be donated and distributed to moms across the globe via our charitable partners. 

WHY DID BREAST PUMPS DIRECT CREATE THIS PROGRAM? Moms are constantly faced with making decisions - especially early on when it comes to their baby’s nutrition and wellbeing. But what if you didn’t have a choice? What if you didn’t have access to clean water to mix formula or a breast pump to leave milk for your growing baby while you work to provide for your family? We want every mom to have the chance to choose better for themselves and their baby. We want every mom around the world to have access to a breast pump in order to establish and maintain a healthy breastfeeding relationship. That is the foundation of the Chance to Choose trade-up program. 

WHY IS BREASTFEEDING SO IMPORTANT? Did you know that breastfeeding can… ● Protect children from developing obesity or diabetes later in life ● Have the greatest potential impact on child survival of all preventive interventions ● Have the potential to prevent over 800,000 deaths in children under five in the developing world ● Save the planet - formula generates tons of landfill waste 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO TRADE UP? Any mom who is unhappy with her current pump provided through her insurance. Did you know that several moms that receive an insurance-provided pump often purchase a premium pump at full price, leaving their insurance-provided pump collecting dust or thrown in the trash? Often times, insurance-provided pumps are very basic and do not fulfill moms’ every need. That’s where we come in - mom gets the premium pump she wants at a great price AND the donated pump is distributed to a mom who would otherwise not have access to one. 

WILL I HAVE TO SEND IN MY PUMP FIRST? No. We will ship and send out your new pump along with a pre-paid shipping label. Once you receive your new premium pump, you can ship us your donated pump. 

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE OR TRADE UP MY PUMP? You can learn more or trade-up your pump at www.breastpumpsdirect.com


Want more posts about breastfeeding? Here are some of my experiences (the good, challenging and joyful):

Breastfeeding: Sometimes the Beauty is in the Struggle

A Down-to-Earth Look at Feminism and Motherhood

How Breaking the Attachment Parenting 'Rules' Taught Me One of the Best Lessons

Saturday, July 29, 2017

We Want Our Kids to be Kind...but How?

We all want our kids to be kind, right? I think this is probably a goal for all of us. Somehow in the day-to-day routine of life, sometimes the kindness part of parenting gets lost.

"Hurry, put your shoes on, we have to go!" we prod

"Don't yell at me!" we (ironically) yell at our kids

We Want Our Kids to be Kind...but How?


I have realized that there are days when I am not the model of kindness to my kids. How are they to learn kindness without a good model?

National research backs up this experience. In a recent set of studies, Harvard University found that 

- while 96% of parents put kindness at the top of the list of priorities to teach their kids, 

- only 81% of the kids said they felt their parents valued kindness 

- more shocking: only 20% of kids said kindness was a top priority for them (most listed achievement or success more highly)

This is what we call the "rhetoric/reality" gap...in other words we are talking the talk but not walking the walk.

When I first read this I was shocked. But it did make me pause for a self-reflection too. Was I part of this "rhetoric/reality gap"? Did my kids know how much we value kindness?

In the past year or so, we have started to really be conscious about kindness and caring in our household. Here is what I have learned:

1. Kids need a lot of repetition. My husband is the politeness/manners model in our family. I mean this guy never fails to say "thank you" to waitresses, clerks, or anyone who helps us out. We have been working on this with our sons for years and finally this year my 8-year-old is mostly in the habit of saying "thank you" to helpers. Now, this is just a small thing, yes. This does not make him a model citizen in all ways. However, it shows us how much repetition and reminding it really takes for kids to learn kindness habits like this. 

2. Reflecting on kind acts helps. Ever notice a person that was particularly helpful or kind while you are out running errands. Maybe the crossing guard at school is cheery even though it's 30 degrees outside. Or perhaps a teacher who was very helpful with a hard assignment. It has helped my sons see these acts of kindness if I make an effort to point them out. This really helps them see kindness in action.

3. Help them think outside their own box. At young ages, kids are inherently self-centered. They don't mean to be selfish, they just don't have the brain maturity to consider another person's point of view. As they reach elementary age and beyond, however, they gain the ability to empathize. As parents we should capitalize on this time. If you see someone hurting or in need, point it out to your kids (if age appropriate). Also, if they tell you about a difficult situation at school (e.g., kids being mean or teasing), consider helping the see how the victim feels in that situation.

Of course, the most direct way to encourage kindness in our kids is to be the best role model we can be. This can be done in everyday ways or more intentional ways as well.

A couple of years ago I learned about the Kindness Elves. They are pint-sized elves who help teach kids lessons about kindness by actually encouraging acts of kindness. Our kindness elf (Elfie) usually shows up to our house near Christmas, but now the Kindness Elves are a year-round friend. They have recently released their Camp Kindness so you can have helpful ideas and activities to do all summer or over a long holiday break.


https://thekindnesselves.com/products/thekindnesselves?rfsn=392750.ca979


This booklet is very helpful as a parent because everything you need is already there. Kindness activities and ideas all packaged in a cute book (under $8) so all you have to do is encourage your kids to join the Kindness Elves in their fun camp. It's a win-win for parents and kids!


Kindness Elves





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