Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parenting Quick Challenge: New Year's Resolutions

Are you sick of the same New Year’s resolutions year after year? Lose weight get organized, start exercising. Why not try something different this year- a parenting resolution!

Maybe you want to spend more time with your kids. Resolve to spend an extra 30 minutes per evening (after work or after dinner) reading a book or working on a puzzle with them. Think about it. Thirty minutes each weekday adds up to 2 ½ hours a week. That’s roughly 10 hours each month of extra time your kids get with you!

Or maybe you want to be more patient with your kids. It’s easy to get frustrated with little ones, whose brains don’t work quite as fast as we sometimes wish they did. Young children need lots of reminders and are still learning to live in the world adults have created. Resolve to make yourself take a deep breath before you snap at them, say something that may come off as a put down, or let your frustration come out in what you say or do.

Maybe you haven’t had enough ‘me’ time and it’s affecting your parenting. Resolve to have a babysitter once a week or once a month and make time for yourself. After all, you have to take care of you in order to take care of your children. (The same goes for your relationship!)

What’s your parenting New Year’s Resolution for 2011? Comment and share!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cheap Fun: Winter

The holidays are over- the decorations have been hung (and possibly unhung), the gifts have been opened, but the kids are still out of school...have you heard this yet: “I’m bored”? If so (or even if not) here are a few quick ideas for after-holiday winter fun!

1. Involve your child in holiday un-decorating- Especially great for very young children, make a tradition of saying goodbye to the holidays by helping them put away special holiday decorations and ornaments. This will give closure to an exciting time of year.

2. Start a countdown to the next holiday- Groundhog Day is only a little over a month away, so why not start a countdown? In fact, why not make an entire calendar of the year’s holidays?!

3. Make a dried apple garlandThis is a fun craft for which you probably already have most of the materials. Bonus: It will make your home smell delicious!
  • Simply core & slice 6-8 apples into ¼” slices & soak in lemon juice for 6 minutes.
  • Pat dry with paper towel & sprinkle both sides with mixture of 8 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cloves
  • Bake in single layer at 200 degrees for 6 hours until completely dried & slightly pliable

String apples onto jute or other craft rope, alternating with fabric strips or holly sprigs. Hang and enjoy!

4. Go ice skating! Okay, so this one costs a bit, but what better winter activity?! Not only is it fun, but it’s a great way to help your little one start learning some heavy duty coordination! Tip: try googling a coupon for your local ice skating rink.

5. Make a Snow Globe - How magical to have your very own homemade snow globe! It’s super easy and requires only a few materials. Here’s a great tutorial.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Parent of the Week: Leo

Last week we had our first Dad Parent of the Week and this week we have our very first international Parent of the Week! I'm so proud to introduce Leo from the United Kingdom! Read on as he tells you about his life as a stay at home dad to two precious kiddos. Then go visit him at Dad's Nursery.

As always, if you'd like to be a Parent of the Week or would like to nominate someone, email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Tell me a little about you
My name’s Leo and I left my job in June 2008 to be a full time stay at home dad. Up until that point I’d spent 15 years in the transport & logistics industry which involved a lot of long hours and time away from home so it was quite a shock to the system at first! I quickly realised that my new job involved considerably longer working hours and my new boss was even more demanding. It was also evident that all those jobs around the house I thought I’d get done would have to make way for more fundamental tasks like washing the dishes and doing the laundry. For the first 15 months our daughter wore reusable nappies and so there was a lot of laundry…

With the arrival of our son 9 months ago, any spare time I have has pretty much evaporated, I’m a musician and still rehearse with my band but our basement is still full of things I intended to sell on Ebay, I haven’t updated my blog since April this year, and my ‘DadsNursery’ website is still very much ‘work in progress’. One of my New Year’s resolutions will be to find more time to do these things, although I’m not quite sure where I’m going to find the time from.

I don’t dance in the car but I do sing which annoys my daughter immensely and she’s often heard to shout “Daddy, please stop singing!” from the back seat. I can’t help it, having watched The Little Mermaid for what seems like 300 times I can’t help it if I know all the words to all the songs!

Tell me about your children
Lily will be 3 years old in February. Our little ‘Blondie’ is a constant ray of sunshine. She’s outgoing, sociable and ever since she could mumble a few sounds she hasn’t stopped talking. She shares my silly sense of humour, I guess that’s what you get for being stuck at home with dad all the time, although this makes it difficult to tell her off sometimes, we just end up laughing at each other! She recently started Pre-School and we’re almost home and dry (excuse the pun) when it comes to potty-training. The ‘Elmo’s Potty Time’ DVD was an excellent purchase, helping her to understand the situation and building her confidence, I’d definitely recommend it to others. Lily has quite an artistic streak and loves drawing, dancing and singing. My wife is a very good singer and belongs to our local amateur theatre group, I think Lily’s inherited some of her mum’s talents. Time will tell though, we’re certainly not going to do the ‘pushy parent’ thing, I hate that. Whatever makes her happy is just fine. She loves reading too, Dr Seuss, the Mr Men and anything Disney related is always well received.

Michael is 9 months old and was a bit of a surprise, albeit a very happy one. My wife had been diagnosed with PCOS and, as with Lily, we naturally assumed that it would take a long time to conceive our next baby, we were wrong! Not only that but our little dude could not wait to put in an appearance, arriving 7 weeks early and weighing just over 5lbs. He spent a week in the special care unit but made great progress and was allowed home soon after. Michael’s now caught up in every sense and it’s hard to believe that the chunky chap crawling around the floor is the same person as the little bag of bones in the special care unit. I remember the first time I changed his nappy when he was in the incubator, I was so scared I was going to break him, he seemed so fragile.  Personality wise he’s very different to Lily, maybe it’s down to the difficult start he endured but he’s certainly more ‘needy’, although now he can crawl he’s finding his own little bit of independence and enjoying it a lot. He gets on very well with Lily, we’re very lucky that (so far at least) there have never been any jealousy issues and they play nicely together. Lily has to be reminded to share her old toys every once in a while but I guess it’s a learning curve for both of them.

What surprised you most about parenting?
On a personal level, it’s enabled me discover a patient and tolerant side of me that I didn’t know existed, and probably a person that a lot of my old work colleagues wouldn’t recognise. I’m going to sound like one of those sad celebrities on a reality TV show but it really has been ‘an amazing journey’. I’ve learnt that no matter how much you read beforehand (and on reflection, I think I read too much beforehand), nothing can prepare you for the reality of it. I can draw a comparison with playing in a band, you can rehearse as many times as you like but it all comes down to what happens on the night. My wife and I read the books, did a birth plan, prepared ourselves for the non-interventional ‘natural delivery’ that we wanted and after all that, Lily was born a week late by emergency caesarean after 44 hours labour and an epidural. Similarly, Michael was born 7 weeks early by emergency caesarean after many complications. But I think the main surprise, and the most pleasant one is that no matter what kind of bad mood I’m in, however sleep deprived or grumpy, one little smile from either of my kids snaps me out of it straight away!

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
I’ve never considered the ‘stay at home dad’ role as particularly unconventional, although others might see it that way. I’ve dealt with being the only dad at playgroup, our doctor’s badly stifled surprise on finding out that I’m the stay at home parent, and the large number of establishments that only have baby change facilities in the ladies toilets, etc… All those obstacles and minor irritations don’t really matter to me, the ‘mission statement’ is to raise a couple of happy, confident, well adjusted kids and that’s what I’m aiming for, and I’m having a lot of fun in the process.

Leo and Past Parents of the Week: Feel free to grab the Parent of the Week Badge:


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Few Blog Updates

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I cannot believe it's almost 2011. Does it make you feel old? Yep. Me too.

I wanted to tell you about a few exciting bloggy updates!

1. Since November, I've had the amazing, wonderful, fantastic opportunity of having a weekly parenting segment on the Dallas/Fort Worth CBS 11 News! Each Monday, I get to go to the studio and air a live segment on a different parenting topic. Many weeks, these clips are posted online and I have (don't laugh) just now figured out how to link to them. My goal for the week is to figure out how to permanently post them as actual video clips. Where are they, you ask? See the tab at the top of my page that says 'Media'? There!

2. While you're up there, you'll notice another tab. It says 'Giveaways.' Self explanatory.

3. My other goal for the week is to make my 'Friends of AGP' a 'Resources' section. If I type it I will do it, right?!

Have a GREAT week after Christmas, everyone. You are going to LOVE the Parent of the Week tomorrow!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thought for the Weekend

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas time.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Happy Holidays from Avant Garde Parenting!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Parenting Quick Challenge: Stay Sane for the Holidays (Part 2)

Part one was the food holiday- Thanksgiving. But you got through it, right? Now it's the gift holiday. More fun, but also more stress. Now not only are you dealing with your relatives, in-laws, food and cooking, unfamiliar people staying in your home (or you staying in unfamiliar people's homes), but add in the stress of... Gifts.

Now, if you're like me, you know exactly what to get each and every person on your list- you know just what will make each loved one smile and warm their hearts in the most personal kind of way. You've also finished all your shopping by December 1.  Wait. That's not me at all. As I write this, I'm still not finished shopping and each year I convince myself a little more that gift cards are in fact quite a thoughtful, personal gift- after all, it’s like money, only better. Right? RIGHT?

But I regress. The point is: the holidays can be are stressful. If you celebrate Hanukkah, congratulations! You. Are. Done. Pat yourself on the back, put your feet up, and take a rest. If you celebrate Christmas, stay tuned: what follows is my highly philosophical, well thought out, took me days to come up with it, top two reasons to remind yourself NOT to be stressed out for Christmas 2010:

1. Christmas is on a Saturday. Sleep in on Sunday.

2. If your kids get up at the crack of dawn on Christmas day, the will likely zonk out for a nap by noon.

TAA-DAAA! There. Don’t you feel less stressed already?!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Parent of the Week: Trey

May I have a drum roll please...Avant Garde Parenting proudly presents the very first DAD Parent of the Week! I give to you Trey. Trey is a stay at home dad who’s had a wealth of experiences and is just an overall fun guy raising a fun son. Oh, and he blogs over at Daddy Mojo. Enjoy!

Tell me a little about you- Who are you? What do you do? Hobbies? Do you dance in the car?  
Me.  My name is Trey Burley and I'm a stay at home dad. In my spare time, as it may be..., I do PR, writing and social media work for a couple organizations.  One of the organizations that I do social media for is Captain Planet Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches children about the importance of being environmentally responsible. Still being able to work is great because it keeps my mind fresh and the working skills somewhat current for when I’ll go back into the professional world. There are some nights where I just want to lay on the sofa with a blanket over my head, but thankfully those nights don't happen too often. 

Prior to being a SAHD I worked in radio for stations in North Carolina, Florida, Japan and Italy. I also taught English in Japan for a couple years and traveled around the globe before settling down in Georgia. I do miss being immersed in a foreign culture and will teach our child a bit about languages and geography.  In Georgia I worked in the import/export business and did fundraising/PR for an animal shelter. If you've seen the ‘It's Me or the Dog’ episode that took place at an animal shelter the bald dude who set up the events to Victoria Stilwell was me.

When I 'm not working or caring for Baby Mojo, I love to cycle, read, play in the garden and study. I don't dance in the car.  My wife was lucky (or unlucky...) to have me dance at our wedding.

Tell me about your kiddo.
Jake is what I imagine I was like as a child. He looks identical to me at that age, it’s amazing. He’s almost 15 months old and has been walking for the past three months. I have learned that the toddler age is one where they laugh and laugh, then fall down, cry, babble basic words and seem to learn right before your eyes. Jake is quite the bookworm. Ever since he was an infant he loved to stare at books, now that he’s walking around he’ll find certain books bring them to us and point. His current favorites are 10 Apples up on Top, The Foot Book, anything by Sandra Boynton and I Love you Through and Through.  Whenever he’s fussy or stumbles and cries all we need to do is pick up one of those books and it quells him very quickly.      

What one tip would you give other parents?
Relax, its fun. It’s a ton of work, but it’s also very fun. You get used to the workload and lack of sleep, then it changes again when they go to a different phase. Embrace change and enjoy change, because it will and you can’t stop it.

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
As a stay at home dad you sometimes have to make up your own fun. The local ‘mommy’ group is just that, for mommies. They said that dads weren’t allowed to join. I found that to be a bit odd at first, but it’s their right to draw up their own rules. To that end, I’m starting my own ‘parents’ group in my area of town in the beginning of 2011. I also try to rely on my experience as a teacher when I’m with my son. We touch lots of objects, smell flowers, read every sign that we can and I behave the way I want him to. That means lots of please, thank you’s and conversations where I initiate things. I want our son not to be afraid to introduce himself to others, in addition to being comfortable playing solo. My wife is great at meeting others and she taught me the art of meeting strangers and injecting conversations.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Little Listeners: Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Every parent wants their child to be a good listener. The hard part for parents is that preschoolers are just learning to listen- they need to be told things over and over and reminded to listen. Here are Avant Garde Parenting's 3 questions for parents when practicing listening with your child. 
1. What are you saying and how are you saying it?
One thing I’ve learned as a researcher is that, when you need children to do something quickly, you tell them instead of asking them. If I tell a child, “I’d like you to point to the blue duck on this page,” he’s likely to do it. If I ask a child, “Can you point to the blue duck on this page?” at least 1 in 4 will look me square in the eyes and say, calmly, “No.” But there’s an art to it, of course. Never be too directive, or you come across at best, as mean and, at worst, as the nanny that Jane and Michael Banks didn’t want in Mary Poppins (...scold and dominate us...).

What I mean is, there’s a huge difference between

“I’d like you to please put your shoes in your closet if you’re finished playing outside.”


“Put your shoes in your closet. How many times do I need to say it?”

I always think of it this way: Would you say it to an adult friend? Then why would you say it to your child?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve said it to her 874 times and she still won’t do it. Keep in mind that preschoolers aren’t adults. They need to be reminded of things many times before they can be successful at them.

2. When are you saying it?
In my last listening post, I wrote about evaluating when it is that you’re asking your child to listen to you. If it’s while your child is in the middle of a project, then you are interrupting your child. In those instances, respect your child by helping her find a good stopping place and then asking for her attention.

3. Why are you saying it?
What’s the meaning behind what you’re asking your child to do? Has trying to get your child to listen become little more than you simply wanting your child to comply? I challenge you to re-evaluate what’s really behind your words, then work a solution by which both you and your child can benefit.

For example: Your 5 year old leaves her crayons all over the floor and seemingly does not hear you the 47 times you politely tell him to put them away. At this point, are you just frustrated because he’s not listening to you? Maybe. But go back to the real message. What you probably initially wanted him to learn was to take care of his toys and put them away when he’s finished with them. Assess the reasons he’s possibly not doing that:

  1. Crayons are tough to shove back into the little cardboard containers they come in
  2. He hasn’t developed planning skills yet
  3. He has so many other fun toys to play with

Now, here are creative solutions to those problems:

  1. Use a pencil box, shoebox, or Tupperware to keep the crayons in
  2. Help hone his planning skills by putting the crayons away together every time for awhile until he can do it on his own
  3. Make putting them away fun- sort by color family, sort by name, have a race, sing a song, put them away with your toes

Bottom Line: Listening is tough when you’re an adult; can you imagine how tough it is as a preschooler? Be a listening ally with your child- work as a team and things will go much smoother.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Parenting Styles...as in, I’m Stylish and You Can Be, Too

Stylish? Me? Nooo. But wait. Maybe...At least one person thinks so. My friend the Zany Housewife (she was a Parent of the Week- remember?) bestowed upon moi the ‘Stylish Blogger’ award! All I can say is that Zany is far more stylish than I will ever be, but a girl can dream...

Since we’re talking style, let’s talk parenting style. Did you know that there are different styles? Well, there are. An amazingly smart woman (that’s right, I said woman) researcher named Diana Baumrind classifies parents on two different aspects: control and warmth.

We’ve all seen the extremely controlling parent, right? Parents who direct each and every aspect of their child’s behavior? Warmth has to do with how accepting parents are of their children and also how sensitive and responsive they are to them.

How controlling and/or warm are you? How much of each should you be?

Fine. I’ll tell you. Research shows that parents who are very warm with their children but also exercise a fair amount of control have children who grow to be responsible, competent teenagers. Surprised? It makes sense if you think about it. My theory? Setting limits and boundaries with your child (control) in the context of a caring, supportive environment (warmth) teaches children that 1.they have a say, 2.their opinions matter, and 3.mutual respect between people leads to solutions.

So how do you do this in a real world situation? Let’s take computer time. Your child wants to stay up and play on the computer all night, but you know he needs to get to bed because he has preschool in the morning. Try something like this:

“It’s important for you to get sleep before school. I hear that you really want to stay up and play on the computer. Would you like to play for 4 or 5 more minutes before bed?”

He will probably choose 5.

“Okay! I’m going to set the egg timer for 5 minutes. Let’s see...that’s...300 seconds! Wow! Okay, when the timer goes off, I’ll carry you piggy back to bed!”

So what do you think? How warm and/are controlling are you?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Communicating With Your Child Through Sign Language

Today I have a special treat- a guest post from early childhood experts Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas! They've shared some insight on signing with young children- I think you’ll enjoy this one!


Possessing the ability to speak and communicate in more than one language in today's society is priceless.  This type of study usually begins in middle school or high school for many kids in America.  However, these days bilingual education is being taught at a younger age, before kids attend preschool, before they take their first step, and even before they say their first word- through sign language.

The ability to communicate articulately in a variety of ways and languages to the widest possible audience is a great way to stay ahead and ensure a decent standard of living in our suffering economic state.  This is not limited to speaking different languages but also non-verbal communication: signing.

As a result of the shortage of American Sign Language interpreters the job opportunities in this field have really opened up, and if current trends continue, it is likely that will stay this way.

First Words
The toddler years and beyond – ages 2 to five –are an ample time to educate children in different modes of communication and language because of their brain development course. This goes beyond the spoken word (though it is an optimal time for children to learn a second language); many young children have an aptitude for signing as well.

American Indian nations have used sign language for centuries to facilitate communication with other tribes with whom they do not share a language. Some paleontologists and anthropologists theorize that Neanderthals – who apparently lacked the vocal mechanism to produce many spoken words – depended a great deal upon hand gestures to communicate. Therefore signing is not as strange as one would think!

In fact, recent research suggests that sign language is innate. An article published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2003 presented strong evidence that babies as young as six months old communicate with their hands:

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is also referred to by the author, demonstrating that young children who are taught sign language at an early age, whether at day care or at home, actually develop better verbal skills as they get older. The ability to sign has also helped parents in communicating with autistic children; one parent reports that "using sign language allowed her to communicate with her [autistic] son and minimized his frustration...[he now] has an advanced vocabulary and excels in math, spelling and music" (Glarion, 2003).

Lasting Results
The benefits of early childhood education through signing are endless.  In addition to giving kids a way to communicate, it also provides them with an opportunity to form a bond with their parent(s).  The hope is that eventually signing will become known as one of the "firsts" that no parent wants to miss, such as the first time children walk or get their first tooth.  Signing is likely to allow communication much earlier than verbally.  It creates a closeness that will allow parents to be more in sync with their child's thoughts and needs.

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of Austin day care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose day care schools.  Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parent of the Week: Kristina

I’m happy to present to you Avant Garde Parent of the Week Kristina! All parents remember the day their first child was born, and Kristina’s got a great story. Read on as she shares how her sweet girl came into the world. Then go visit her blog, Mountain Mum!

As always, if you'd like to be a Parent of the Week or would like to nominate someone, email me at deluna.jamie@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!


My name is Kristina. I live in the Sierra Mountains, in Lake Tahoe California. My daughter Mackenna is now 2 years old. I love to scrapbook, bake and clean (sometimes). I love to organize and get stuck in a project. I'm a full time working mom, that's addicted to diet coke and trying to balance my busy life. 

It seems like yesterday I was told I was going to be induced a couple days after my last visit with the doctor. 

It was July 22nd when I went to see the doctor for the last time. He told me that if I wanted since I had family members coming into town that I could be induced that Thursday July 24th. Oh course I did what any pregnant woman would do at full term and said please, please I will take that date. I was so excited to have a date and also nervous because all I could think is that OMG I'm going to have a baby by at least friday. I called the hubs on the way home and told him, "so the doctor wants to induce me, and ummm I'm going to be induced on thursday." Dead silence on the other end. He just told me ok and then an awkward hang up. I went home and cleaned like mad and made sure everything was perfect. 

I'm not going to bore you to death about the nasty details, because if you are a mom or dad you know how it goes, and what everything looks like. I'm more interested in telling you all about my hubs and how hysterical and nervous he was during the whole 48 hours of before, during and after my induction and labor. 

Ok, back to the story, my hubs and was kinda beside himself. He was not expecting to be dad that week. (I mean my water could have broke right then and there), but the fact we had a date scheduled freaked him out. Anyway, we both didn't sleep a wink that night, and in the morning it was kinda of weird just walking to the maternity ward and signing in. I was admitted and the hooked up on the IV's and the potossin was pumping through me. Ian was pacing and kinda just annoying me. (if you are ever induced it's a lot of sitting and waiting).

Hours passed and the pain started to intensify. I was induced at 6am and by 9pm that night I was begging for the epidural. (FYI the hubs does not do well with needles... at all). He was standing next to me holding my hand while the doctor administered the numbing stuff in my back. My hubs to urn and see what he was doing and he saw the doc putting in the cathader in my spine. The hubs almost dropped to the floor. The nurse made him sit down since he is like 6'3" and no one was big enough in that room to catch his fall. 

After I started to feel numbly and good, we decided to watch a movie. The Father-in-law brought the hubs a 6 pack and it was gone pretty fast... and hour later I was starting to feel the urge to push. After an hour of pushing the nurse asked the hubs nicley if he wanted to be the first one to see his baby's head... of course out of it he took a look and went weak in the knees again. By this time I was just hysterical to the way he was acting. 

A few more hours later, I couldn't get Mackenna out on my own, so we had to use the vaccume to get her out. Finally after just 15 more minutes she was finally out. When the hubs saw her head he asked the doctor if her head would stay a cone shape. He was freaking out. The doctor assured him that her head would return to normal. I think after the night, he was ready to leave the hospital for a minute. I think before he headed home for the shower, he hit up the bar. : ) It was a crazy time for him but he made it through.

My daughter Mackenna, is 2 years old now and talking like crazy. She can sing all of her ABC's and count to 20. She goes to preschool full time and loves it. She has an outgoing personality and very friendly. She will never be short of friends and go unnoticed. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lying in Children

Happy Monday! Today I'm reposting one of my most read posts- it's about lying in children. Did you know that by age four, 90% of children tell lies? But some research suggests that if your child is lying by the age of 2, he may be getting a little head start on a certain type of thought development. So what should you do when your child lies to you?


Does your child lie? Does it appall you? You’re not alone. And I’ll tell you something that will shock you: it’s completely normal and may even indicate that you have a smarty pants on your hands! Some research suggests that if your child is showing these skills as early as two, he may be showing early signs of high intelligence!

Okay, I’m going to get researchy for a second. Lying usually emerges in children around age 3 and is often the first sign that children are developing a theory of mind. Theory of mind is the ability to simulate in your own mind what others are thinking. Think of it as ‘putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.’ Kids begin to learn this at a young age but they aren’t perfect at it, as you well know.

Take this example: You buy some new red nail polish. The nice, $9, OPI brand. Or China Glaze, whatever. It’s on the counter in your bathroom. When you go in there later, it’s all over the counter, down the cabinet, and running on the floor. You look at your daughter. It’s on her fingers, hands, and face.

“Sweetie, did you open mommy’s nail polish?” I know she did, obviously, because it’s all over her.

“No.” She was in the kitchen. She didn’t see me.

At this young age, kids can’t yet put together all the evidence: that even though mom didn’t see me get into the nail polish, she’ll know it was me because I’m covered in it.

What’s hard as a parent is realizing that our children aren’t lying to ‘be bad.’ They’re not trying to be malicious and untruthful- they are merely practicing this newfound skill. So while it’s frustrating and patience-trying, it’s completely normal for your child to test out his new ‘lying’ skills. And exhale- there’s no link between childhood lies and later big-time fibbing like cheating on taxes or cheating on spouses.

But we still want our kids to know the importance of honesty. So what can you, as a parent, do to help your child learn that lying isn’t okay? Here are a few ideas:
  • Teach the difference between fantasy and reality. When sharing a book or watching a television show, talk to your child about why what he’s seeing isn’t real. In the same vein, recap actual experiences with your child (going to the zoo, the doctor, grandma’s)
  • When your child lies, comment on the positive intent. Your child wasn’t intentionally trying to anger you. Instead of ‘Why would you get into my nail polish?! Do you have any idea how hard this is to clean up?!’ try, ‘I bet you really wanted pretty red nails like mommy, huh? You know you’re not allowed to paint your nails yourself (ß that part can be stern), so why don’t you let me help you?’
  • Don’t set your child up to lie. For example, if you know your kiddo has not brushed her teeth as she’s hopping into bed, don’t ask knowingly ‘did you brush your teeth?’- she’s likely to tell you she has because she knows that’s what you want to hear. Instead, play dumb. Say, ‘Okay, let’s go brush your teeth!’ If she’s already done it, trust me, she’ll tell you!
  • Praise the truth when your child does tell it. Even if it means your child has misbehaved, recognizing that your child has told you the truth will encourage him to do so again in the future.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Going to Visit Santa- Full of Excitement or Full of Nerves?

I have this coffee table book that was given to me by a friend called ‘Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland.’ It’s a compilation of photos of children sitting in Santa’s lap. Crying. While I have to admit that it is funny and if you could see some of the Santas in this book they might even make you cry, I feel the need to take this opportunity to make the following holiday public service announcement: PLEASE don’t let this happen to your child- examine your motivation for taking your child to visit Santa.

As I was flipping through the book, I started thinking- do parents take their children to visit Santa because the children want to? Or is it because parents want that annual holiday party favor of a photo of their child on the lap of the big guy? Or maybe we parents really want our children to love Santa the way we loved Santa, so we try, year after year, to no avail. Or maybe (and I empathize with this one, really I do) it’s because we stood in line for over an hour at the mall behind a screaming kid, having to smell Cinnabon the entire time, and We. Are. Not. Giving. Up. Now.

Now, I should say, some children LOVE visiting Santa. I myself have a memory of going to visit Santa and, when it was my turn, taking the liberty of completely reclining on his lap as if to say, ‘Okay, dude, this is going to be a while. I’ve got a lot on the list and this happens once a year. Let’s both get comfortable.’ For those children, go forth. Visit Santa.

Some children really want to visit Santa in person and then get nervous at the last minute. We’ll call it ‘Santa anxiety.’ For those children, here are a few tips that may help the process:

  • Explain what it will be like before you go. Show her pictures of Santa. Tell her exactly what will happen.
  • When you get there, approach the Santa station slowly, explaining again exactly what will happen.
  • If needed, go with him to sit on Santa’s lap. Don’t be embarrassed. Santa’s seen everything. I promise.
  • If she’s still scared, come back later, or come back next year. The stress, the tears, the anxiety- they’re NOT worth it.

Still, some children just aren’t the ‘Santa visiting’ kind. For those children, I encourage you to find other ways for your children to connect with the Man in Red. Your child can send Santa an email here. And guess what? Santa will email back within 3 days!

Always, always reassure your little one that Santa will absolutely still visit on Christmas Eve. The visit beforehand is just for fun J

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Moderation: Kids & Holiday Lists

The holiday list. I know when I was a kid, my mom would plop the JCPenney catalog down in front of me with a pencil and a pad of paper and I would go to town. Nowadays, it’s different. Kids are inundated with commercials and demos at the mall. They know what they want months before the holidays.

And let me get ‘old lady, here’s-what’s-wrong-with-the-youngsters-of-today’ for a second,’ but don’t we all want to teach our children that it’s okay if they don’t get everything on their list? I think, as parents, we want to preempt the sense of entitlement that we (cough) see all too often these days. Okay, stepping down off soapbox...now.

One way to navigate this with young children and holiday lists is to remind them that the holiday list is just a suggestion for mom, dad, grandparents, and yes, even Santa. The conversation can go something like this:

You: “Oh I’m so glad you thought of so many ideas for what you want for Christmas/Hanukkah! Remember, though, you won’t get everything on your list, just some of the things.”

Child: “Why?”

You: “Well, Mom/dad/grandma/grandpa has other people to buy gifts for, too. So she’ll get you a few things, but not everything. Why don’t you put a star by the two things you want most, so she’ll know what to look for first?”

A good way to end this activity is to teach your child that the holidays are a time for giving to others, as well. When he gives his list to the respective aunts, uncles, and grandparents, have him ask what they have on their lists. 

How do you do Holiday lists with your kiddos?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Parent of the Week: Adriana

This week’s Parent of the Week, Adriana, is dear to my heart. Not only is she a coworker of mine, but I also count myself lucky to call her my friend :) Read on as she gives you some parenting encouragement, wisdom, and a funny story!

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.

Tell me a little about you – Who are you? What do you do? Hobbies? Do you dance in the car?
My name is Adriana and I am originally from Medellin, Colombia.  I came to the United States 11 years ago with the purpose of vacationing.  I met my husband and I am still here. I am a happy mother, a wife, a graduate counseling student and currently a research assistant at the University of Texas at Dallas. Guess what?  I get to see Dr. Hurst DeLuna in action almost every day and let me tell you she is really great with children.
I love reading with my son and whenever I have a chance I like to visit his school and do story time for the whole class.  My best singing and dancing performances happen in the car, that makes the morning rides to school and work so much better.

Tell me a little about your child.
My child is my favorite comedian. He is always finding or making up reasons to laugh. He is outspoken and always makes sure that others notice that he is around. I would say he is a thinker and observer. In fact, on Thanksgiving weekend he showed everybody that he has been trying to figure out certain things about life.  Let me tell you the story: My husband’s parents got divorced when he was little, and his mother got married again. My son sees his grandmother’s husband as a grandparent, but he also shares a lot of time with his real grandfather. In other words he has ‘two grandfathers’. We were all waiting at the lobby of the hotel to meet with my husband’s step brother and sisters- some of them were meeting my son and me for the first time. Everybody got there with their respective families, my son was looking at everybody and when things got a little bit quiet he decided to inquire about something that didn’t seem clear to him. He said out loud, “why does Linda Major (his grandmother, whom he only calls by name) have two husbands?”  I wish I had this moment on video; it was hilarious. My mother-in-law’s reaction was great too.

What surprised you most about parenting?
What surprises me the most is how much I have learned about myself since the day I became a mother. There is no part of my being that hasn’t been touched by the fact that I am a mother. I never thought that I would enjoy taking a position where there was not previous training, the work hours are 24 hours seven days a week, no vacation, no pay check, zero promotions or even the right to resign from the job. Not to mention the multiple roles you have to play- physician, nurse, nutritionist, entertainer, teacher, psychologist, cleaning lady, teacher…etc.

Parenting is the hardest job I have ever done in my life; it requires physical and emotional strength.  In this job I have learned to delay my gratification to eat, go to the restroom and even sleep. I have had to show and develop abilities of self control and keep my cool when I really want to scream and run away (you all know what I am talking about). But guess  what? This is the job that I enjoy the most. I feel blessed for having the opportunity to be a mother and see my child grow and develop. I have grown most as a person in the last four years than in all my years of life and for that I thank my son.

What one tip would you give other parents or parents to be?
This question puts me in a philosophical mood...I would say look at parenting as an adventure, be open to all the things there are to learn in this journey and especially to the things our children can teach us.  Have the courage to be imperfect, there is no such a thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child and if there is, they are not human. Our children don’t expect us to be perfect. What they need is not perfection, but love and support. It is healthy for our kids to see that we make mistakes and are vulnerable people too. They will learn more from our actions and the way we live our lives than from what we tell them is good or bad. Our job is to love our children in a responsible way, create great memories with them and be ourselves what we want them to be.  They will know for sure we make mistakes but they will never forget that they were loved. One day they will be repeating history, they will be trying to be better parents than their parents- exactly the way we are trying now. We didn’t have perfect parents either, but I am sure we all can tell if we felt loved or not.

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
I am not ‘super mom’ even though I wish I was. The day has only so many hours. I have learned to thank myself for all the things I do day by day. Instead of ending my day thinking about the things I did not accomplished, I am choosing to end my days making a mental list of the things I did, including the little things. 


Monday, December 6, 2010

Beyond French Fries and Chicken Fingers: How to Handle Your Picky Eater

Do you have a picky eater on your hands? First off, you’re not alone. Picky eating is very common in toddlers and preschoolers, who are discovering and expressing their newfound independence. The good news: it subsides and eventually fades away in most children as they grow. The bad news: you still have to deal with it for now. Below are some questions you may be asking yourself daily (or hourly) as you and your child engage in a battle of wills different challenges during mealtime.

My child won’t eat anything except french fries, ketchup, and chicken fingers. What else can I do???
Number one: Be patient. According to researcher Dr. Shayla Holub of the Healthy Development Project at the University of Texas at Dallas, all children, not just picky eaters,  need to taste a new food 8-15 times before they accept it. And that’s taste it, not just see it. How many times do you normally have your child try a new food before you both give up?

Next, model eating new foods with a good attitude. Ever heard the phrase ‘do as I say, not as I do’? Well, kids do as you do, so make sure that your kiddos see you eating a variety of healthy foods with a good attitude.

I tell my child that if he doesn’t eat everything on his plate, he can’t have dessert. Is this okay?
Did you know that even very young children are able to internally regulate their own calorie intake? In other words, they know when they’re full- you don’t have to make them finish every meal because they’re able to tell on their own whether they need more food or not!

Second, research suggests a certain ‘forbidden fruit’ effect when parents do things like make children finish one part of a meal in order to get dessert. It makes one part of the meal an obstacle, something to ‘get through’ to get to the ‘forbidden fruit,’ or the ‘good part.’ In essence, it’s telling the child, ‘You have to eat this [chicken and broccoli] to get this [delicious ice cream], so there must be something horrible and bad about the chicken and broccoli.’

But really, we want our children to want to eat the chicken and broccoli, right? So what do we do? Encourage a healthy balance and don’t make dessert conditional upon eating the main course. Or, I wonder what the harm would be in serving dessert with the main course...would your child eat it first and then not be hungry? Then serve a much smaller dessert serving.

Should I make an entirely separate meal for my child just because she’s picky?
No. But do involve your child in meal planning- and make it fun! Here are a few ideas for your picky eater:

  • Give her choices for dinner that don’t always include her usual picky favorites. If you have multiple children, let each child choose one dish at each meal.
  • Make it a game- for example, eat a ‘rainbow,’ a ‘flag,’ or anything else you can think of and see how many different colors you can include in your meal (e.g., blueberries=blue, tomatoes=red, rice=brown/white)
  • Eat the alphabet- Celery, cut just right, can be ‘C’s, grapes can be ‘O’s, what else can you think of?
  • Call food fun names- I didn’t think of this one, but try calling broccoli ‘jungle trees’ or oatmeal ‘quick sand’ and letting raisins get ‘caught’

Remember, mealtime with your picky eater can be tough. But with patience, a good attitude, and a little creativity, it can be enjoyable (and nutritious) for both of you!

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