Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Parent of the Week: Ali

Can I just tell you how excited I am about this week's Avant Garde Parent of the Week? Well, first off, I just had about 24 typos the first time I typed that sentence. That's how excited.  It’s one of my most favorite bloggers ever (and fellow Texan), Ali from The View from the Johnsons. I can’t start talking about her blog because I’ll never stop. Just go read it. But first- read her Parent of the Week post.

And, as always, if you would like to be an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com.

I’ve never guest-posted on someone else’s blog before. I hope you can’t see how nervous I am! (Be cool, Ali. Be cool. Be cool!) Luckily, Jamie has these handy questions that I can answer…

Tell me a little about you- Who are you? What do you do? Hobbies? Do you dance in the car?
I feel like we should start with the most important question first: I TOTALLY dance in the car – and sing, and eat, and dress, and live… have I mentioned my car is disgusting? But, the rest… hmmm… Who am I? That’s a loaded question. I guess the short answer is I’m just a normal girl, who, out of dumb, blind luck, and blessings from above, stumbled into the most amazing life I could have ever imagined for myself. I’m a wife to an amazing man and a mom to two pretty awesome kids. Which leads us to…

Tell me about your kiddos.
Spencer, boy, October ’03 and Elizabeth Ann/Elizabeth/Lulu/Elle/Belle/EA (We’re still trying to decide what to name her. Sad, since she’s 4 ½), girl, June ’06.

What surprised you most about parenting?
You can’t find all of the answers in a book! Try as I may, I never could find the instruction manual that went with my newborns. I can be an annoying perfectionist (if my husband is reading this, he just choked on the words “can be”) – and there just is no “perfect” in parenting. It’s one day at a time. You are constantly learning from one another; constantly getting to know one another; and, just trying to do the best you can with the resources you have. (Thank goodness we parents can add AGP to our arsenal of resources now.)

What one tip would you give other parents or parents-to-be?
When you first get that brand new baby home… it SUCKS. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you love him/her. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you would lay down your life for him/her. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you would totally gouge the eyes out of any person who posed a threat to them. But… it. is. not. fun.

Your self-centered life is over. It doesn’t matter if you are tired. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel good. It is not about you anymore and that’s a hard adjustment to make.

Couple that with the fact that you and your baby don’t know each other yet, or how to get along. And never mind trying to differentiate those cries – is that a “hungry cry,” a “hurt cry,” a “tired cry?!”…

Let’s just say, I’m the first person to tell a new mom, “Call me if you want to bitch. I will tell you, ‘No. This is not fun.’ But, I can also tell you that it does nothing but get better and better. And, you will do nothing but fall more in love with that child.”

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent? 
Did I mention I’m a perfectionist? Well, perfectionists of the world, you can forget about that. There is no manual to tell you how to be the perfect parent to your child. There is no one who knows your child like you do. I’ve had to learn to trust my maternal instincts and confidently do what’s right for my family.

As a matter of fact, I just heard a study that concluded that trying to be perfect for your children is detrimental to them. They are left with the belief that anything less than perfection is failure. So, I’m turning over a new, imperfect leaf.

My new, innovative idea? Love the devil out of them. The dishes can wait. The clothes can be wrinkled. The cookies can be store-bought. Giving that 75th hug? That. Can not wait.

P.S. I’m not sure if you all knew it, but Jamie is my virtual BFF. So, if you had your sights on her, back off! She’s mine.

Thanks, Jamie! xoxox

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bedtime Q & A

To mirror my weekly CBS 11 news segment (4:00 pm broadcast, Dallas/Ft. Worth market), here's a little Q & A on kids and the dreaded...bedtime.

My child HATES to go to bed. What do I do?

  1. Have a routine
  2. Be Sparkly

1. Have a routine. Children crave consistency. They thrive in an environment where they know what to expect, and bedtime is no exception. Have a bedtime routine that is the same every night. Even something as simple as: Bath, story, snuggle, sleep, will help your child know what is coming every single night.

2. Be sparkly. In the words of Sandra Dodd, being ‘sparkly’ is the greatest way to relate to a child. It’s in the marketing- make it fun for them. ‘Bath’ isn’t fun. ‘Bubble bath with squirty toys and wax crayons that can draw on the tiles’ is fun. THAT’S sparkly.

Should I let my child ‘cry it out’?
The Ferber Method, also known as ‘crying it out,’ is a method of sleep training in which parents leave children alone for timed intervals, essentially disregarding cries and whines and letting the child eventually soothe him/herself (or not).

Since it would be highly unethical to randomly assign/tell parents whether or not to respond to their crying children at night (“Okay, ma’am, we’d like you to NOT comfort your son every night for the next two weeks when he cries...”), there isn’t a lot of completely experimental research on the Ferber method.

So what’s the answer? Unfortunately, research doesn’t give us a definitive answer. I will say, though, that the tenants of sensitive parenting encourage us to respond to and comfort our children when they’re distressed. It’s our natural instinct- when our child cries, we soothe him. But what do you do when you suspect your child is crying to try and manipulate you- to stay in her room, to let her stay up longer, etc? Keep reading...

In the meantime, you can find a GREAT article on the pros and cons of the Ferber method here, and here a few take home points from the article:

      The Ferber Method
  • Is NOT recommended for babies under 6 months
  • Should NOT be used to treat sleep disorders or problems
  • Does not teach kids HOW to fall asleep

What do I do when my child keeps getting up at night, wanting to get in my bed?
I talked about this a bit in an earlier post. In many instances, the answer may be as simple as finding a compromise by which both parties feel like their needs are met. Some children may need to have a parent close to them while they’re sleeping, whether at the beginning of the night or after nighttime wakings. Try making a bed of blankets with a pillow at the end of mom and dad’s bed. During the night, if she wakes up, she can come sleep on that with the understanding that she must be quiet or else she goes back to her own room. This will fulfill her need of having a parent close by and also teach her to self-sooth. More importantly, it might give her a sense of control for handling this problem on her own.

Now, I completely expect her to violate the ‘quiet’ rule a few (or many) times. I would attempt to battle that with the following: take her back to her bed and tell her she can come back to the pallet when she is ready, but the quiet rule still applies.

My child manipulates me by crying unless I stay in the room until he falls asleep, then he takes FOREVER to fall asleep. HELP!
I also touched on this in my earlier post, but I’ll reiterate here. I can only imagine how frustrated you are because I’m fairly certain I was that child for my parents. I used to make one of my parents sit by my bed until I fell asleep. Then, I would make myself stay awake because I thought, “Well, if I just stay awake, mom won’t leave because she said she stay until I’m asleep.” I literally have a memory of my father reading through the entire newspaper next to my bed. When I was a bit older, I used to make myself stay awake all night because I was so scared of being alone at night in my room. To this day, I have no idea why I was so scared. I ended up co-sleeping with my parents (much to their dismay) until I was about 10- and I think it lasted so long because I knew I was in charge of the situation and could manipulate it to my satisfaction.

Wanting to control a situation is extremely common in children, even very young ones. If we’re being honest, it’s common in people of all ages. I personally always recommend parents helping their children to feel in control of their world. I think about it in terms of trying to find a way to say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no.’ (did you see my post on letting your child have control in appropriate ways?) For children especially, the things they want control over may seem silly or trivial, but, for many things, if it’s not hurting them or someone else, why not? Plus, letting them have control in lots of little situations often leads to less resistance when you need to control other situations.

Bedtime is no different:
Let her choose the jammies
Let him choose which bedtime story to read
Let her say goodnight to her toys
Let him choose a special stuffed animal to sleep with each night

Bottom Line: Bedtime is tough, but it doesn't have to be a power struggle. Don't go into it thinking that way. No one has to 'win.' The goal is a good night sleep- for the whole family!

What's bedtime like at your house?


    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Parenting Quick Challenge: Stay Sane for the Holidays (Part 1)

    Okay, dear readers, as we embark on the Thanksgiving holiday I know that many of you will be celebrating with family and extended family over the next few days. And family + extended family + cramped living quarters + lots of food + lots of kids = lots of STRESS LOVE, right???

    So as you go into this first of two back-to-back holidays (up next: Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa), I realize that you're thinking: 'You know what I need? I need one more challenge.'

    I'm on it.

    Here's the challenge: When you're about to lose it on an in-law, when you're about to throw out the burnt dressing and buy the whole darn dinner from Kroger, when you're about to pack up the kids and just go home and turn on Dora because at least you will have 30 minutes of peace...just look at your kiddos for a minute. Just for a minute. Maybe they're playing- and it's probably the cutest thing you've ever seen. Maybe they're zonked out on the sofa from a mashed potato, cherry pie induced coma- and it's the most peaceful sight of the day. And just remember: you do it for them.

    P.S. To my Canadian, UK, German, and Indian (and anyone I forgot) readers, thanks for sticking with me through the past few American Thanksgiving posts. And to everyone, I'll be back on Monday, November 29- well fed and well rested! Read more...

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Parents of the Week: Kelli & Brendan

    This week’s Avant Garde Parents of the Week are Kelli and Brendan. They are photographers and own and run Nine Photography. As if that doesn’t keep them busy enough (!) they also have a smart, cute, talented son whom they adore. Read on as Kelli and Brendan talk about balancing owning their own business and being parents.

    And remember, if you would like to be an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com.

    Photo by Nine Photography
    Tell me a little about you...do you dance in the car?
    We are professional photographers who own our own business. We basically love to do anything artistic, and of course, we are parents most importantly. Photography was our hobby, and so now since we do that all the time, we haven't really taken up anything else. When we have time, we are usually still shooting, just for fun though.  Oh yeah, we totally dance in our car.  And we're good.......VERY good.

    Tell me a little about your kiddo
    Our son, Grant, is 10 and he's in the 4th grade.  Kiddo (We call him kiddo A LOT) is so funny and has a dry sense of humor. Before we got married, we were in a comedy troupe, so now we love watching Saturday Night Live and comedy movies with our son. It's just sort of our family dynamic to appreciate comedians and funny people in general. So Grant has picked up on sketch writing lately. I used to write sketch comedy, so it's easy to talk about what is funny and what makes something funny to you personally. Grant will be like, "Wouldn't it be funny if you had a guy who was dressed up in a chicken costume and then he........". Or we will be watching a funny movie, and he will say, "That wasn't really funny." He's becoming quite the critic.  :)

    Photo by Nine Photography
    He is very good at sports. He pretty much loves to play and be active doing anything that involves running and/or throwing a ball. He does well in school. Although, as much as I'd love to say he LOOOOVES it, he definitely would rather be playing than reading or doing home work. But he is an "A-B" student, so we aren't complaining.

    OH, and he is a HUGE animal lover. He says he wants to grow up and have a farm with a 100 dogs.  He is a stray dog magnet, and if we'd let him, he'd take each and every one of them home.

    What surprised you most about parenting?
    All of it. Parenting surprises us pretty much on a daily basis. Just when you think, "Alright, we got this." BAM! Your child will go through another stage in their life. And you do wonder what you can do better and try to figure out what doesn't work at all. Grant responds well to discipline when we just simply talk about it. If you yell at him, he is a very sensitive kid who takes things waaaaaay to heart. Discipline changes with each stage, so it's been a constant learning. Also, not to steal Art Linkletter's thunder, but kids really do say the darndest things. We are always surprised at things Grant will say and what he knows and his intuition and common sense. They know so much.  

    What one tip would you give other parents?
    As sappy as this sounds, cherish every moment and don't be too busy with other things.  If you have a busy job (like um, well, most of us do), make time every day to stop and listen to your kiddo.  They are awesome.

    How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
    Owning your own business and working from home is such a challenge because you can literally work 12 hours a day.  Taking my own advice from question #4 has been the biggest thing we have had to do.  We have had to get very creative with time and family nights and keeping on a consistent schedule.  Since we work from home during the weekday and shoot on the weekends, we have found that doing something on a weekday is awesome for us.  We will have a family fun night on a Tuesday.  And usually we will have the whole place to ourselves because most families are having fun on the weekend.  We went bowling last Thursday and played laser tag, and we were literally the only people there.  It's almost like we have rented out places for the night just for us!  


    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Temper Tantrum Toolkit

    In the past few weeks, I’ve given you a few tips to handle temper tantrums. Just in time for the Thanksgiving break (do I anticipate possible meltdowns with a week off of school? No...not my children...), here’s a recap along with one extra!

    1. Be Proactive
    • Know the warning signs of a tantrum for your child/children. It may be fussiness, a whiny voice, or a number of other tell tale signs.
    • If you see said warning signs, keep it simple and redirect. Using simple language and redirecting your child to something else entirely may be all that is needed to avoid a meltdown.

    • Easier said than done, I know, but you getting angry also, will only escalate the situation.

    3. If you can, wait it out
    • Sometimes children need to work emotions out on their own. This helps them learn to regulate.
    • Especially if the tantrum is in a private place (like home), give the choice of letting the child ‘work this one out on her own.’ Of course, be there for support and guidance, but it’s okay to let her feel upset and experience her emotions.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Parenting Quick Challenge: Having a Thankful Heart

    Thanksgiving is right around the corner. As parents, we want our children to have thankful hearts. We want to teach them that thanksgiving is a time for careful reflection on what we're thankful for and not just turkey time (though the pie is irresistible...oh the pie...). But how can we help young kiddos learn to communicate their thankfulness?

    Yep. You guessed it. By example. Young children will follow your lead of showing how thankful you are for the good things in your life. 

    Try it like this: "I'm so thankful for ______. 'Thankful' means I'm so glad. It makes my heart happy."

    Then ask your child what she is thankful for. You may need to help very young children by giving suggestions- "Hmm...you always seem so happy when the puppy comes inside and licks your hand. I wonder if you're thankful to have such a friendly puppy?!" And you can challenge older children by helping them think of qualities, rather than just tangible objects, that they're thankful for.

    Did you do it? What happened? Now go eat pie :) Read more...

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Parent of the Week: The Zany Housewife

    This week’s Avant Garde Parent of the Week is none other than The Zany Housewife herself! Zany is an anonyblogger, which means you’ll have to use your imagination to picture her and her precious munchkin- but it’s totally worth it. Read on as she describes how she and her daughter get goofy together.
    As always, If you would like to be featured as an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! 
    Tell me a little about you
    I'm the Zany Housewife. I like cooking, baking, classic movies/television, running amok, and creating the occasional doodle/painting. I don't dance in the car but I dance like crazy around the house. And in the grocery store. And down the sidewalk. I tap dance at random times. In fact, I have been tap dancing since the age of four. I wanted to be Shirley Temple but my hair never curled. Later I wanted to be a part of Vaudeville. Imagine my reaction when I learned I was oh, about 70 years too late.
    Tell me a little about your kiddo
    My daughter, aka resident munchkin is 21 months old. She is incredibly curious, stubborn and scrappy. She loves to smell flowers, yell hi at any person/animal that crosses her path and has her first crush on Ernie from Sesame Street. She shares her love of pasta with her dad and cannot leave a room without kissing us and saying 'buh bye' as she runs off. She knows the sounds that animals make (you say the word 'chicken' and she clucks happily in response) and loves to point out body parts and their names. It's good until she pokes you in the eye.
    What surprised you most about parenting?
    I think it was having to relearn how to schedule time. I have always run by schedule and once she came into the picture, everything was different. It took me a good two months to get into a new routine.
    What one tip would you give other parents or parents-to-be?
    Forget the burp cloths on your baby registry. You won't need them. Also, invest in a good video camera. They really do grow up fast, as cliche as it sounds, and you will want to have those moments on hand...to see where they've been and to see where they are going. And always pack your purse (ladies) with wipes. And crackers. And a board book if you can fit it. Last but not least, (my personal fav) is to be as goofy as humanly possible. You may think you look like a quack, but your kid will enjoy it.
     How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
    Hmm. That's a tough one. I guess we've had to be creative as far as eating is concerned. When introducing new foods I get overly animated about what we are eating. She then gets really interested and will at least give the new item a try. Her newest favorite is curry. She loves it. Also, when going to the doctor I tell her how (when looking in her ear) the doc is on the hunt for monkeys. It sounds absurd, right? But her eyes get wide and she sits really still. Her new doctor is great and plays right along Read more...

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Child Care Q&A

    How can child care help my child?
    A while ago, I told you about the long term effects of early child care. To summarize, children who experience high-quality child care when they are young show slightly better academic performance and fewer behavior problems when they are adolescents than children who experience lower quality care or no care at all. Although the effects are small, they are long lasting.

    Can child care have any negative effects on my child?
    Research does link longer hours (50-60+ hours per week) in child care with increased behavior problems in children and slightly more risky behavior and impulsivity in adolescents. Longer hours is often coupled with other factors such as too many kids in a classroom with too few caregivers or low-quality care in general, which could also contribute to outcomes like behavior problems.

    How do I find high-quality child care for my children?

    • High quality caregivers should be sensitive and responsive to children all the time, not just when they're upset.
    • Look for a low child to caregiver ratio (fewer children per caregiver)
    • Low turnover of staff
    • High quality caregivers interact directly with children and get on their level (e.g., on the floor, sit at the table with them)
    • Look for centers or classrooms that have a variety of age appropriate activities and games for children
    • Look for classrooms that have activities that stimulate all the senses

    What questions should I ask a potential child care facility?
    Ask anything that comes to your mind, but here are a few suggestions:
    • What is your policy regarding sick children?
    • What is your discipline policy?
    • What is your staff turnover rate?
    • What is your caregiver-to-child ratio?
    • What are your safety policies?
    • Can I observe whenever I'd like to?
    • What is your overall philosophy regarding child care?

    Will I miss important moments/opportunities with my children by leaving them in child care?
    This is what every parent feels guilty about. Guess what the research says? Parents have much more influence on their children's development, learning, and growth than what day care provides. Let me say that one more time. Parents matter more. So feel confident about your choice and know that you are making the best decision that you can for your children.


    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Thought for the Weekend

    "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood."
    -Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers)

    So true, isn't it? Kids learn through all types of play. For example, when children pretend, they often practice planning skills. Ever watched your little one play school or house? She's planning and acting out a day- a great way to exercise her planning and organization skills. And when you're helping him with that art project? He's learning about colors, how they mix, and the scientific properties of paint.

    How do you help your chid learn through play?

    P.S. Did you see my new tab at the top titled 'giveaways'? Read more...

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Parenting Quick Challenge: Avoiding Frustration with Your Child

    This week's Parent of the Week post made a great point. We, as parents, can get so frustrated with our children when they do things like dawdle on the way to the bathroom because they notice Every. Single. Thing. But think for a second how amazing that is- if the world didn’t have people that perceptive and detail oriented, we wouldn’t have amazing scientists and astronauts. If we didn't have kids who wanted to try out every single one of the 120 count crayons, we wouldn't have such talented artists and painters.

    So here’s the challenge: Try not to get frustrated with your child’s, hmmm, let’s call them ‘personality quirks.’ Try to think of the positive things about your child and comment on them. You and your child will be glad you did.

    For example, if you have a very boisterous child, instead of saying

    “Why can’t you just calm down for FIVE MINUTES?”

    Try: “I love the energy you have! I wonder if you will be an athlete or a dancer when you grow up?! Do you feel like playing outside with all that energy?”

    Try it. Did you do it? How did it feel? 

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Parent of the Week: Stacy

    Stacy in a word: AMAZING. Read for yourself. As always, If you would like to be featured as an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! 
    Hi everyone! I was honored when Jamie asked me to be a guest blogger, although I admit I was a little stumped about what to write. What would be interesting to you, her readers? Then she asked me a simple question, and suddenly the floodgates opened.
    What was the question? I’ll tell you soon, but first, let me tell you a bit about myself.
    I’m Stacy. I’m madly in love with my best friend and have been married to him for the past 8.5 years. He recently re-enlisted in the Army after being out for over a decade, so I am now a new Army wife. Together we have a 6 year old daughter who is a miracle in every sense of the word. After being told by doctors that we would never have kids, God surprised us with our sweet girl. She lives with Asperger’s Syndrome & Sensory Processing Disorder, and we are homeschooling her in Kindergarten this year. We are also currently foster parents to a sweet 7 month old baby boy. My personal hobbies include taking tons of pictures, learning about photography, writing, reading,& learning to sew. As a family we love to go camping, enjoy the outdoors, and one day will get back into SCUBA diving which is how I met my Hubby in the first place. I am a Christian and a follower of Christ. I know that I could not do anything without His strength, and I am so thankful every day that He trusts me enough to raise my daughter and our foster children, and so glad that He gives me just what I need to do it.
    So, back to the question Jamie asked me. She actually asked me a few.
    Do you dance in the car? No, I don’t dance in the car, but I do sing in the car. A lot. Thankfully it’s usually only my children and God that can hear me and they both think I can sing well!
    What surprised you most about parenting? I thought I would be the one doing most of the teaching, and didn’t realize how much I would learn from my daughter at such a young age. Also, that one-size-fits-all does NOT apply to parenting. Those books, that advice, that knowledge…it’s only great if it actually applies to YOUR kid. So often, it doesn’t. They aren’t carbon copies, they are one-of-a-kind original models!
    What one tip would you give to other parents or parents-to-be? Study your child and pray to see the world through their eyes. We miss so much trying to show them stuff without stopping to look at what they see. More on this in a minute.
    Then, the question that opened the floodgates…
    How have you had to be Avant Garde, or innovative, as a parent? Oh, let me count the ways!
    As a parent, I have had to learn to see the world through my child’s eyes. I’ve had to realize that as much as I like a schedule and a plan, that I must be flexible enough to put my child’s needs first. Not her “wants” mind you, but her needs. Sometimes that can be a fine line. I’ve also had to figure out a way to stay structured & keep a predictable routine because my daughter needs that, while still allowing for the flexibility that is demanded from time to time.
    I’ve come to understand that I don’t need, or even want, to conform my child to be like everyone else. Instead, I need to educate everyone else on my child’s needs. I’ve learned to pick my battles. To embrace the uniqueness that is my child. To focus on what she IS, rather than what she is NOT.
    I recently wrote a post on the Dallas Moms Blog about studying your child, and how we homeschool in our pajamas because that’s what works for my daughter. Is it a little unconventional? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just fun and cool!
    Something else that was innovative to me personally, even if second nature to others, was changing the words I used to describe my child – even out of earshot.   A couple years ago I read a book that changed my life! It is called, “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and I highly recommend it to every parent.  She talks about how many of the qualities about our kids that frustrate us now, will be valuable to them as adults.  Have you ever referred to your child as “stubborn”?  Yet, think about an adult as “persistent”.  See, being persistent is a valuable quality that can make someone very successful in whatever they are trying to do.  They won’t take “no” for an answer.  They’ll find another way.  My daughter doesn’t really argue with me.  A lot of it has to do with being a rule-follower and she knows she’s not supposed to.  What she does do, however, is try 15 different ways to get what she’s wanting.  “What if I do this?”, “Could you do that instead?”, etc.  She’s persistent.  She’s honestly not trying to argue, so I have to be very careful to commend her for not quitting (something we teach), but kindly let her know that it’s not going to happen in any way, shape or form at this time.
    Would you rather me describe you as “easily distracted”, or “perceptive”?  Maybe “good with details”? My daughter notices EVERYTHING.  Everything.  It can take 10 minutes to get down the hall to the bathroom because she stops so many times.  Only instead of scolding her, I try to redirect her or even compliment her on noticing things and then remind her that right now I really just need her to focus on one thing. 
    It changes my mood and my attitude toward her when I change my words.  Even when you are speaking to your friends or your spouse about the child and they aren’t around, it affects your attitude toward the child.  Try it.  Say it aloud.  “He’s being so stubborn today!” vs. “He has been very persistent trying to get me to let him have a cookie”. 
    Give it a try this week.  Listen to yourself as you talk about your child and see what words you use.  Then think about if you would like to hear someone describing you with those same words.
    Thanks for letting me be a guest here!  I hope you’ll check out my blog too at www.midlifearmywife.com

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Choosing a Babysitter: A Brief How-To

    Caring for children is a sacred trust and when it comes to choosing who will care for your own when you’re not there, it’s a tough decision. If you don’t live near family, your options may be limited and often times you may find yourself wondering whether to trust someone younger than yourself (a teen or tween) to watch your children.

    My two characteristics of a great babysitter would be the two S’s: Sensitivity and Safety. The caregiving literature overwhelmingly points to sensitivity as an important component of good caregiving. A sensitive caregiver can read children’s signals and respond to them warmly and appropriately. When interacting with a child, a sensitive caregiver can follow the child’s lead and keep the interaction at a good pace without controlling it. Think of it this way: When building a tower of Legos, a sensitive caregiver allows the child to lead the way, choosing which blocks to use, where to place them, and how tall to build the tower. She’s there for support, whether the child needs a hand to steady the tower, encouragement along the way, or a smile and a high five when he’s finished.

    A great babysitter should also have safety at the forefront of her mind. She should be able to handle stress, know who to call in an emergency, and not leave young children unattended. You, as the parent of the children being sat for, can help the babysitter be prepared for any emergency that might arise by leaving a list of helpful phone numbers (your cell, spouse/partner’s cell/pediatrician/poison control). You can also write out any specific house rules you’d like followed and leave them in a visible location, like on the fridge (e.g., don’t open the door for anyone, let the phone go to voicemail).

    Okay, so now you know the two S’s – Sensitivity and Safety. How do you know if your potential babysitter has those two qualities? Here’s what I suggest:

    Have the potential sitter over for an informal interview or meeting
      •  Watch how she interacts with your child- Does she get down on your child’s level? How does she respond to your child? Does she make eye contact and speak directly to him? Does she quickly pick up on and expand upon the child’s interests? If your child is a baby, does she know how to hold him? Does she know appropriate strategies to comfort him when he is distressed?
      • How does she interact with you? Does she seem confident? Is she able to express herself?
      • Ask for references- Essentially, this is a job interview, so ask her for the names and numbers of a few adult references. Ask her about her past experience with children. Ask her what she would do in a hypothetical emergency situation or how she handles stress.
      • Ask her outright- Questions that may feel awkward like ‘Do you know who to call in an emergency?’ or ‘What would you do first if my child was choking?’
      • Tell her outright- Things like ‘My rule is that you don’t leave my child unattended at any time’ or ‘My rule is that you don’t open the door at all.’
    • Do a trial run- When you can go somewhere close and for a short period of time, such as a neighbor’s house or a close restaurant for 30 or 45 minutes.
    • Trust your instinctsAt the end of the day, don’t leave your child with someone you don’t feel comfortable with. 
    Parents of teens and tweens, preparing your daughter or son for possible emergency situations that could arise while babysitting is one of the most important and best things you can do. Below are a few resources available to help you find courses in your area.
    • Red CrossEnter your zip code to find CPR and other preparedness classes in your area
    • Many hospitals offer babysitting preparedness courses for free or a nominal fee. Simply look up your local hospital’s website or call for information.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Tantrum Tip: Keep a Calm Voice

    It sounds intuitive, doesn’t it? To keep a calm voice? But in that moment, that single, grating on your nerves, ‘I cannot believe my child is doing this right here, right now’ moment, it’s way easier said than done. But you must.

    Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that yes, people will stare. They will stare as if their children have never, ever acted this way. Their children have acted this way. Everyone’s children have acted this way. Take another deep breath. And keep a calm voice.

    “Sweetie, I hear that you really want to buy the [insert favorite, absolutely cannot live without toy name here]. We can’t get it today.”

    And continue to remain calm. Raising your voice will only 1. Egg your child on and 2. Escalate the situation.

    In contrast, calming your voice will encourage your child to mirror you and calm down. Sometimes it’s as simple as just acknowledging how your child feels with a simple, repeated, “I know, I know,” or "I hear that you're upset."

    When you feel your child has calmed down enough to accept physical touch (and not 1. Scream, 2. Smack your hand away, or 3. Both), offer comfort: “Would you like a hug from me?”

    Keep calm. Did it work?

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Ten Fun Things to do with Leftover Halloween Candy (Besides eat it)


    1. Sort it – Very young children love to sort things- by color, by shape, by size, or by type. Candy even adds sorting dimensions (chocolates versus non-chocolates, different flavors, etc.). Make it a race seeing who can sort the quickest, or just have a leisurely time sorting at your own pace. Either way, sorting can provide you hours of fun.

    2. Make Jewelry I heard that candy jewelry made by preschoolers is really in this season and now you can have yours for free! Grab some yarn and tie together the bajillions of bubble gums and lollipops your children raked in for some candy chic necklaces and bracelets. Then create your own catwalk and have a fashion show!

    3. Donate it – Many local area Meals on Wheels, nursing homes, and foster homes graciously accept leftover Halloween candy. Leftover candy (especially candy that isn’t specifically decorated for Halloween) is given to those in need and used for Thanksgiving and holiday get-togethers. Check with your local agencies for special guidelines. BONUS: This is a great opportunity to teach your child about giving back and having a giving heart.

    4. Bake it in a recipe – Okay, so this one doesn’t qualify as a ‘not eating it’ idea, but there are so many great recipes that involve candy and cooking with your kids is a great way to bond and create special memories. Here’s a great blog post from Sugar Mama with 15 delicious recipes for leftover Halloween candy.

    5. Make sentences – Candy seems to always have fun names, so what better way to work on your child’s reading and sentence skills than helping him make sentences out of the candy names? Here’s an example: ‘I used to think Mom and Dad were two big nerds, but now I know they are smarties!’ And here’s a simpler one for younger kids: ‘Parker is the cutest boy in the entire Milky Way!’

    6. Use it as a currency lesson – Don’t want your kids that entire pillowcase-full of candy they brought home on Halloween? Have them exchange it either for money that they can use to buy toys (older children) or for the toys themselves (younger children).

    7. Play Hide-and-Seek with it – Kids love hide-and-seek, so give the game a twist by hiding the candy instead. One person hides the candy (hide it in groups- chocolates, suckers, etc- so you won’t be searching for so many little pieces) and the other person finds it. If you have more than one ‘seeker,’ put each person in charge of a candy group (one person find the suckers, one person finds the bubble gums, etc.)

    8. Weigh it – Do you know which weighs more, a Blow Pop or a Tootsie Pop? What about a dry piece of gum or a chewed piece? Milk chocolate or dark chocolate? I sure don’t.

    9. Make it art – Got glue and paper? Make a candy collage! Your child can leave candy in its wrapper or take it out- either way her art will be beautiful and a great addition to your refrigerator.

    10. Make it a science lesson – Which candies float? Which candies dissolve in cold water the quickest? Hot water? Which chocolates melt the fastest in the microwave? Your kitchen has all the tools you need to set up a candy science lab and have hours of fun and learning.

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    HUH? Helping Kids Listen

    Do you ever feel like a broken record? Do you ever feel like a broken record? It’s frustrating when you feel like you are constantly repeating yourself and everything you say falls on deaf ears. So what’s the solution?

    Well friends, first I say to you: look inward. Before you apply any quick fixes to your kiddos to get them to listen, evaluate when it is you are asking them to listen to you. Is it when they are in the middle of an art project? A future Tony award winning Broadway production? On the brink of discovering a new periodic element right in your very own backyard? Then you are interrupting them. Young children haven’t mastered the fine art of multitasking yet. It's difficult for them to listen to you and work on whatever project they are engaged in. In such situations, my advice to you is to wait for a good stopping place before expecting to have your child’s full attention.

    Let your child know that you have something important to say that requires their full attention. Get on her level (e.g., on your knees, on the floor)

    “I need you to stop for a few seconds while I tell you something.”

    Wait while your child finds a stopping place. If your child doesn’t or won’t stop what she is doing in a reasonable amount of time, help her to do so. Tell her what you needed to say, then end the conversation with

    “Thanks for stopping to listen. That was so kind of you.”

    So what about times when your child isn’t busy becoming the next Nobel Laureate? Try saying, “Let me see eyes, please,” or placing one hand gently on his shoulder and waiting for eye contact before starting to speak. Ever heard the phrase ‘The eyes are the window to the sole’? There’s some truth to it. Make sure your child is looking at you when you’re talking to him. That way, you know he’s hearing what you’re saying.

    In the same vein, show similar respect when your child is speaking to you. Give your child eye contact and your full attention when she’s talking to you. Make your child believe that what she’s saying to you is the most important piece of information you will receive all day. Guess what? She’ll likely do the same for you.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Avant Garde Parent of the Week: Julie

    Happy day after Halloween! I hope everyone had a safe, spooky, and candy filled day/night/weekend! What did your kiddos dress as? What did you dress as?

    Did you know that Avant Garde Parenting was the Saturday Spotlight over at Just Another Mom of 2 this weekend?! Go check it out here!

    I’m so excited to feature Julie of 3 Moms in One as this week’s Avant Garde Parent of the Week. Julie describes herself as always striving to be the perfect mommy, the happy mommy, and the working mommy. But you know what? Julie is WAY more than three types of mom. She’s also funny mom, creative mom, loving mom, always looking out for her sweet girl mom- the list could go on forever. Okay, I’ll let Julie tell you about herself!

    Tell us about you. 
    I am Julie. Mommy first, with everything else fighting for glorious second place. I was a lifelong over-achiever until a nine-pound bundle of joy threw me into a tailspin 2-1/2 years ago. Who was this little person? And who was I to protect her, teach her, and care for her? I knew nothing about babies. I didn't even babysit as a teenager. This kid took her power position in the world immediately. I am the mommy of a 32-pound diva.

    I am married to my super smart, kind-hearted, cute best friend. We married in January 2003. He works his booty off at his job while I work my booty off at home. I work part-time in advertising/media. I work mostly from home, somehow typing one-handed emails while rolling out Play-Doh snakes with the other. Polishing PowerPoint presentations while fulfilling urgent snack requests. Thank goodness video phone never really took off, or I'd have to dress a lot better during "office" hours.

    Blogging is my hobby. It sometimes feels like a job, but I do enjoy it. I like pulling my thoughts & feelings out of my head and placing them on my blog. I like having a virtual escape from my life. I like being able to say whatever I want to say. I like having something that is mine - ALL mine. 

    Do you dance in the car?
    My car speakers are almost always playing kiddie tunes. Little People are a favorite. Not so easy to dance to, perhaps, but I can do a mean hand-clapping, foot-stomping "Happy & You Know It" - while driving! And my "Itsy Bitsy Spider"? World class.

    Tell us about your child.
    Did I say diva? She knows what she wants and she wants it now. But she's also hilarious. She has an artistic streak, loves music and dancing, and can captivate half of a restaurant by standing up in the booth and shaking her stuff. She can frustrate me to the point of breakdown, but can wipe it all away instantly with a witty comment or a sweet hug. She has a lot of love to give. She just happens to have a ton of opinions to dish out too.

    What surprised you most about parenting?
    I knew from the start that I had zero baby/child experience on which to lean. But I had no idea how hard it was going to be! I had no idea what a toll it would take on my self-confidence. I still don't always believe that I'm doing a good job. But I am doing my best. She's learning, she's fed, she's healthy, she's happy. What more can we ask for?

    What one tip would you give other parents or parents-to-be?
    Those "rules"? Really just guidelines. Just because the parenting book says one thing, doesn't mean it'll apply to your kid. Or work with your style of parenting. All kids are different and you have to learn and adapt along the way. Friends and family (sometimes even strangers) will try to tell you how they did it, but sometimes their way is just not possible in your life. And that is okay.  

    How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
    See above. I've finally learned that I'm allowed to figure it out my way. It seems that my daughter never responds like the books say she will. She has an iron will and some serious determination. So we adapt.

    If you would like to be featured as an Avant Garde Parent of the Week or have someone you would like to nominate, please email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!  

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