Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting Ideas

Hellooooo dear readers! Guess where I am? Bet you didn't guess Montreal, Canada (but if you did, you would have been correct). I'm at the biennial Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD) Conference. It's a hunormous event that brings together thousands of researchers who study babies, kids, and parents. Everyone shares what they know (and what they want to know) and gets and gives ideas. It's pretty much awesome.

So I've been feverishly scribbling down everything I'm learning about, starring the things I think will make good blog posts (all of them, duh), and being SO thankful I live in the south (it's in the 30's here. Thirties.). You all just hang tight. I'm learning some cool things.

And if you know any of the higher-ups in SRCD, let them know that I would sure appreciate a SOUTHERN conference location sometime soon. (Last time it was in Denver. The time before that it was in Boston. Next: Seattle. 2017: Philadelphia.). I'm just saying- what's wrong with Miami? San Diego? Hawaii? (Here's hoping!)


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parent of the Week: Scott

This week's Avant Garde Parent of the Week is Scott. This post might be our most unique yet because it is actually written by Lisa, Scott's wife. She wrote me wanting to nominate him and her words were so sweet and genuine that I asked her to write the post herself. You'll see why I didn't ask her to cut this long post- it's possible the most kind entry you'll ever read. Now go. Get a tissue and read it.


Don’t worry, Dad’ll fix it.

These are the words spoken most often around our house.

Because my husband is a Renaissance Man, though he doesn’t know it.

Though he’ll probably never write the Great American Novel, (notice I said probably – never count him out), or compose a magnificent opera, or sing at the Met, I have never met anyone who can accomplish whatever they set their minds to the way he can.

Scott and I have been married for more years than I care to recall.  We have five children, one girl and four boys.  Our daughter, known as Girly Girl, is our oldest.  She is 21, an opinionated spitfire, the self appointed princess of our household.  She also happens to have Down Syndrome.  When she was born I was a wreck and Scott was a rock.

Come to think of it, Scott has a lot in common with rocks.  In a good, geology loving sort of way!  He’s solid, he’s dependable, he’s deep – yet he can also be unpredictable.  Landslides do occur you know, and suddenly all those rocks you imagined so safely lodged up on the mountainside wind up in a heap in your front yard.

Scott would know just what to do in a landslide.  If the rocks landed in our front yard, Scott would figure out just the right way to move them. He’d find someone with some sorta rock moving machine, barter a deal to borrow it, magically know how to drive the thing, and fashion the rocks into a water fall.  If the rocks crashed through our house, smashing the walls and wrecking the furniture Scott would repair the walls, craft new furniture, (and probably figure out who to sue over the landslide).

My boys would help him, and be both amazed and slightly annoyed.

How does dad know how to do this stuff? 

This is a question I’ve heard countess timesMy answer: He tries hard.
And that’s what makes Scott a Renaissance Man, and a great husband and father:  He tries hard.

Scott, Little Bit, & the new table crafted from
a rough beam cut lengthwise with a chainsaw!
He puts his all into everything.

When I decided, all those years ago, that homeschooling the kids sounded like a fun and interesting thing to do, Scott went along with me when everyone else we knew thought I was crazy.

His days off became our field trip days.

Scott has accompanied us to a Hindu Temple, up the winding stairs of a clock tower, a Greek Orthodox church, and a noodle factory, just to name a few.  He’s been a boy scout leader and escorted Girly Girl to school dances and luaus.  He’s been there when each of our children were born (His only negative comment as I was squashing his hand:  No nails!  No nails!!).  He’s taught our boys how to gut fish, mince onions, build a fire, change a car’s oil, and butterfly a chicken.  He’s braided Girly Girl’s hair, curled her bangs with my curling iron (which he’s frankly not so hot at, though he’s been practicing for years),and gotten on Space Mountain just one more time despite a splitting headache.

Every Sunday Scott makes a big breakfast.  Often it’s pancakes, he mixes the batter (never measuring) and pours it into the different shaped pancake molds we’ve collected over the years.  Little Bit, our youngest, is always on hand to flip the cakes over and present them to the rest of us on a platter with the words “Order Up!!!”. This, my friend, is a time honored tradition.

Most Sunday evenings Scott is in charge of dinner.  He creates homemade soups and curries; he marinates and barbeques and dices and chops, cleaning up as he goes.  The kids line up, assembly line style, as he gives them each their instructions.  More tradition.

I’ve heard that some men go golfing on their days off.  I’ve heard some men watch sports on tv or play sports, go hunting with their buddies, or just hang out with their friends doing nothing in particular.  I personally know men who get together to play poker every week, or catch a bus to the Nevada border to gamble, or attend sporting events.
I just can’t imagine it.  These poor guys aren’t enjoying the rich, diverse life Scott is!

Just look at what they’re missing: 

~Reading Goodnight Moon for the four thousandth time; helping their 7 year old, struggling with reading, to sound out words, over and over again; crafting, with his son’s help, a beautiful new table for the kitchen; frosting a ginormous cupcake cake only to have the top separate from the rest of it and topple onto the floor, (naturally we ate it anyway).

~Family camping trips:  backing the rv into the tightest spot possible because we decided we like the look of “that tree” and wanted to be right next to it; helping the kids catch frogs; playing badminton, catch, and football; rigging up a laptop with speakers on the camp table so we could all watch a movie outside.

-Taking the kids to the dentist, the doctor, the physical therapist, science classes, theatre classes, scouts, and the library (three of these all on the same day.  Every week.)

~All of our vacations are family vacations.  All our evenings family evenings.  We play games together, bake together, read together.  Scott and the older boys have been listening to The Lord Of The Rings on cd yet again, during their weekly drives to and from various activities.

So – Scott can change diapers, get up with a baby in the middle of the night when I’m too exhausted, tutor geometry, repair anything (without winding up with extra parts!), cook, clean, read aloud, craft fine furniture, fish, hunt, and not get lost in the mountains. He also shops for food and is unafraid to buy feminine hygiene products and makeup for me when I run out. What can’t he do?

He stinks at laundry.  He combines the wrong items and puts the towels I’ve folded away backwards.

Doesn't sound like such a bad thing, does it?

A year ago, when we moved, Scott unloaded the chicken coop off the back of his truck, all by himself.  My 17 year old whispered to me later,  I I can’t believe Dad did that.  He’s so strong!

Some months back we discovered a mouse in our pantry.  Scott instructed everyone to arm themselves and grabbed a bat.  He and our oldest boy went into the pantry and shut the door.  The rest of us stood outside, armed with a second bat, a stick, a katana, and a plastic light saber (green).  We waited with baited breath – then Scott cried out There it is! Get it!  Sounds of loud crashing, of wood smashing against tile, sudden silence, and then my son saying: Oh I’m sorry!  Are you ok? 
Yes he had wacked his father with the bat.  More silence.  Then Scott, evidently still alert, cried out a second time: There it is!  More whacking.  And soon Scott carried the deceased mouse outside.

The last time we had a mouse in the house Scott herded it into the hall closet and shot it with a pellet gun.  It was rather a sad sight.  The nasty critter laying there with it’s dirty feet up in the air. But our kids thought that was so cool.

From baking to car repair to mice shooting:  Dad can do anything!

And it's true. 

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


Monday, March 28, 2011

Answering the Tough Questions

The tough questions. The questions every parent dreads. You know- the birds and the bees. What happens when you die? Why doesn't my sister have a pee pee? What's the F-word? Here's a quick guide so that you won't get caught off guard! 

1. Keep answers simple and age appropriate – What a 3 year-old wants or needs to know about where babies come from is very different from what an 8 year-old wants or needs to know about the same topic. Though it might be easy and tempting to launch into an all-out medical explanation with your preschooler, your 3 year-old will likely be satisfied with a simple answer such as ‘they come from mommies’ tummies.’

2. If you’re not sure how to answer, lead with ‘Great question. What do you think?’ – This buys you a little time and lets you find out what your child already knows about the topic, which will help you tailor your answer to what your child is really asking.

3. Don’t lie – Especially with older children/teens and topics such as drug and alcohol use, your adolescents can smell a rat from a mile away and lying will only cause you to lose your credibility with your children. Instead, handle these questions with the truth coupled with the negative consequences you encountered by engaging in such activities.

4. Find out what your child is really asking – By asking him questions (e.g., ‘Tell me a little more about what you’re thinking.’ ‘What made you think of that?’) Many times when children ask about difficult topics such as death or mom and dad fighting, they are really just looking for empathy. Show sensitivity by identifying with your child’s emotions, whether s/he is sad, scared, or angry.

How do you handle the tough questions? 


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is Your Child Serious? That's Healthy!

Today I have a guest post from Dr. Leslie R. Martin, a researcher from La Sierra University in California. She's the co-author of The Longevity Project, a book that chronicles a study that sought to understand precisely what makes some of us live longer than others - fascinating.

Read on as she describes why parents shouldn't necessarily worry if they have a kiddo who seems to be more serious than his peers - it may not be a bad thing!


Is Your Child Serious? That's Healthy!

About a week ago I attended a party. Most of the attendees were parents and the discussion quickly turned to temperaments: whose babies slept through the night; whose little girls wore pants and whose refused anything but dresses; whose kids were cheerful and full of laughter and whose were more thoughtful and solemn. The matter of cheerfulness versus seriousness fascinated these parents because they saw it as something indicative of who the child was, and what he or she would become.

Science confirms that temperament is indeed present from the very first moments of life and can be seen in the different ways that babies react to things in their environments. Some infants startle easily while others seem nonplussed by sudden movements or loud noises; some infants are difficult to soothe once there emotions have been aroused while others are quickly mollified and return to whatever they had been doing before. Some toddlers are very cheery, with the infectious laughter of a gleeful or mischievous tot. Equally contagious is the toothy grin of a 10-year-old after telling a clever joke. Cheerful, laughing kids provide reassurance to parents that life is good for the child.

It's not surprising, then, some parents expressed concern about their children who seemed OK but were more serious, that is, the children who laughed, smiled, and joked less than their more exuberant peers. "It makes me wonder sometimes if something's wrong with him," "I feel like maybe I should try to pry it out of her," "I encourage him to go and have fun with his friends, but he'll never be the life of the party", and "I hope I haven't done something to make her so serious and focused; I guess I haven't set a great example in this area though; I'm not much of a partier myself."

Sure, even young children can occasionally become depressed and retreat into their rooms, sleeping too much or eating too much, fidgeting anxiously, and feeling worthless. But this is uncommon and is quite different from simply being serious, focused, and not silly. More important than any particular characteristic is the child's comfort level with the trait. If a child is on the serious side but seems content, involved with friends or clubs or sports, and well-adjusted otherwise, there's probably nothing to worry about. In fact, we found that such children may be exceptionally healthy.

In The Longevity Project we studied more than 1,500 children as they grew up and passed through their adolescence, adulthoods, and into old age. Being more serious as a child was not a risk factor for earlier mortality -- in fact the reverse was actually true! The very cheerful, optimistic, and humorous kids had shorter life spans, on average, than their more sober counterparts -- in part because they later took poorer care of their health and tended to smoke and drink more, among other things.

So, except in cases where additional warning signs are present, parents of serious children can relax. Not everyone is a Charlie Chaplin or an Adam Sandler and really, think about it -- shouldn't we all be thankful for this?! Some people are simply more high-spirited than others and these differences start early. Scoring a little lower on the humor-meter is not a bad thing; and our surprising research shows that it may actually be good for one's health. Parenting is tough, and there are lots of things to worry about, but this isn't one of them.

© 2011 Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D.author of The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study

Author Bios
Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D., author of The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study, graduated from Yale and was awarded the National Science Foundation graduate fellowship for his doctoral work at Harvard.  He is currently Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and has been honored with major awards by the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.

Dr. Friedman has edited and written a dozen books and 150 scientific articles and has been named a "most-cited psychologist" by the Institute of Scientific Information.  His health and longevity research has been featured in publications worldwide.  He lives near San Diego, California

Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D., co-author of The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study, graduated summa cum laude from California State University, San Bernadino, and received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside.  Currently, she is a professor of psychology at La Sierra University, where she received the Distinguished Researcher Award and the Anderson Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Dr. Martin is also a research psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, and a key associate in Professor Friedman's longevity studies.
An avid traveler, Dr. Martin climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2005, and recently completed the 151-mile Marathon des Sables across the Moroccan Sahara.  She lives in Riverside, California.

For more information please visit http://www.howardsfriedman.com/longevityproject/ and follow the authors on Facebook and Twitter

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Parent of the Week: Vivian

Meet Vivian- a mom and grandmother who is just delightful! Would you believe that this adventurous lady has jumped out a perfectly good airplane...something called skydiving... ;) Read on as she describes how the lessons she learned as a parent led her to create her very own business, which you can check out here!

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 love affair with children’s picture books began over fifty years ago as I helped my mother turn the pages of THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton.  Even as a very young person, I knew that my life would be devoted to uplifting young children. 

Vivian's book art- her 3 children!
As a kindergarten and Head Start teacher in the New York City public schools, I implemented an innovative program, using daily picture book stories, simple craft projects and easy healthful cooking activities that helped build self-esteem and develop pre-literacy skills.  But, when my husband and I decided to start a family, we made the decision that I would quit teaching and stay at home to raise our children.
However, our finances (or lack of them) required a second income.  And that’s how my daycare operation for the children of local teachers began.  Now I could stay home with my children, while earning money at the same time.  For me, it was the ideal solution to a problem that many parents face.

Looking back, while it might have been an ideal situation for me, I know that if you had taken a survey of my husband and my own children, you would have gotten a very different impression.  My husband was a teacher at that time and he returned home from work at 3:30pm…to be greeted by a houseful of young children…the six children I watched in addition to our own three.  And, even though they were usually involved in constructive and educational play activities…nine children in one home equals, well, nine children. :)  My husband wanted me to be there for HIM…not busy changing several diapers or preparing afternoon snacks for a bunch of toddlers.  My own children also resented this intrusion…other children sitting in THEIR chairs, playing with THEIR toys, taking the time and attention of THEIR mother.  They didn’t voice their unhappiness at the time…but whenever we talk about it now, they tell me that it made them mad and sad. 

Vivian's daughter and grandson
I think that being a parent is the most challenging and difficult job in the world…whether you are a SAHM or SAHD, whether you work at home or work outside the home while raising your children, whether you volunteer part-time as a crossing guard or you work 50 plus hours a week in an executive level position.   What works for one person, may not work for another.  Each person’s family situation is unique.   I guess my advice to parents is that they need to communicate with each other and decide together what works best.  Talking really does help…our special place was in the car parked in the driveway after the kids were sleeping.  We felt we were away from the situation…no phones, no interruptions…but close enough if we were needed.  It worked for us (we celebrated our 43rd anniversary last August) and hopefully our children (all grown with families of their own) have discovered their own ways of dealing with problems and situations that arise.

This past September, I was able to share the innovative and successful program that I developed while teaching and doing daycare when my new book for parents and teachers of preschoolers, SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING, was published.  It pinpoints 100 picture books every young child should hear and provides a story summary, gentle parenting tip, eco-friendly craft project and child-friendly healthful cooking activity for each recommended title.  This ultimate resource for busy parents builds self-esteem, develops pre-literacy skills and creates a life-long parent-child bond while giving parents a newfound sense of confidence in their own parenting abilities as well.

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


Monday, March 21, 2011

Handling Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry. If you’ve been there, you know how stressful it can be. Sibling fights can be some of the most intense, heated arguments known to man- and 5 minutes later they are laughing and playing like nothing happened. But in hopes of avoiding some of those moments of sheer pull-your-hair-out frustration, here are a few tips to remember:

1. Spend time with each child individually. Yes, your children know you love them, but they still crave time with you alone- away from everyone else. Spending time with children individually will suppress the need to compete with each other for your time and attention. Try devoting 15 minutes with a special book with each child nightly. Avoid speaking about siblings during your one-on-one time.

2. Don’t compare. I talked about this in a recent post about handling losing. It goes for sibling relationships, too. Each of your children is unique and special- make them feel that way. Don’t compare them with each other, as doing so will only heat up the competition between them.

3. Model appropriate problem solving behavior. Children do what they see and problem solving is no exception. Model appropriate behavior by being calm and respectful of others, even (especially?!) when things become heated. Help them learn to take turns talking and listening to each other and compromising by showing them how you do this in your own life.

4. Know the difference between ‘fair’ and ‘equal.’ Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ for parenting and you just won’t be able to treat each child equally across the board (and you’ll go crazy trying). Being fair is a much more attainable goal because it can look different for different children. Fair means each child gets what he or she needs (or, in many situations, wants), and that is very possible in most situations.

How do you handle sibling rivalry?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How Parents Can Support Self Regulation Development in Children

Self regulation means being able to manage your own behaviors and emotions. Parents and caregivers know that these abilities can be difficult for children and tests of them are often seen in tantrums or battles over homework vs. playtime. As frustrating as these situations can be, it may help to know that there are steps you, as a parent, can take to help your child practice successful self regulation.

Young babies and toddlers need more support than older children when learning to regulate. Learning your baby’s cues (hunger versus pain cries, for example) and responding appropriately helps infants learn to regulate. Parents can also help their very young children learn to regulate by developing a routine early. Have a routine for things like bedtime, snacktime, and playtime.

Parents can support preschool-aged and older children’s self regulation development by helping them engage in activities and play that encourage the use of these skills. For example, more pretend play has been linked with higher levels of self regulation in children. Why? According to researcher Laura Berk, it’s because children use more private speech when they are pretending. Private speech is speech that children engage in with themselves. You may have seen your young child playing ‘pretend’ and talking about what he’s going to do, how he’s going to do it, and giving a running narrative of his play. Berk argues that this type of speech in the context of pretend play helps children develop planning skills.

Other work suggests that parents can support self regulation skills in children by letting them take the lead with certain tasks. When children accomplish even simple tasks on their own, like brushing their teeth or packing their lunch, they feel a sense of accomplishment and learn how to plan and organize each step in the process.

Based on work that shows the benefits of parents’ support of self regulation in children and different types of play that encourage self regulation, here are some suggestions for encouraging these skills with your child:

For babies and toddlers:
  • Respond to your infant’s cries and bids – with water, comfort, or other items or actions your baby might need
  • Set a routine early- For example, have a bedtime routine that is the same every night.
  • Consider having a comfort item for your young child when he or she is upset- a favorite blanket or teddy bear, for example.

For preschoolers and older children:
  • Be flexible and let your child take the lead– It takes a flexible caregiver to allow children to take the lead on some tasks. Remind yourself to be patient and open-minded even when children choose to do something differently from how you would (e.g., choosing clothes that don’t necessarily match, choosing which veggies to have for dinner)
  • Find the part of a task children enjoy – and let them complete it independently. Is your child not a fan of tooth-brushing? Help him brush his teeth, then let him put away his toothbrush and toothpaste the way he wants to.
  • Play Simon Says- This classic game is not only fun, but it also requires careful listening and matching your own actions to the directions given.
  • Pretend- When children engage in imaginative play, they use private speech that involves planning what they are going to do and creating a running dialogue of their play, which in turn allows them to practice self regulation and planning skills.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Parent of the Week: Ann

Ann, our Parent of the Week, is someone I know you all will be able to related to. Read on as she talks about how there's really no 'one size fits all' way of parenting. Oh, and did you see her absolutely, breathtakingly precious daughter?!

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 is Ann.  I've been married to my wonderful husband Daniel for 5 1/2 years.  I quit my career to be a stay-at-home mom to our daughter and I'm so happy and grateful that we were able to make that change.  We're also expecting our second baby!  I'm a proud graduate of the University of Southern California, Fight on Trojans!  I love kids, sports, reading, traveling and food.  :) We also have two chocolate lab doggies, named Abby and Ace.  I'll dance occasionally in the car, these days, it's to amuse my daughter.  I also love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with all my heart.

Tell me about your little one.
My daughter Alexis is almost 18 months old and is the absolute joy of our lives. She is extremely smart and advanced for her age. She loves the Your Baby Can Read program and can read and say lots of words.  The best part is she LOVES books and loves to read with mommy and daddy. She learns something new nearly everyday.  She's very sweet and funny and dogs are her favorite thing in the whole world.  We love taking walks in the stroller and visiting the dog park near our house.  She really likes all other animals too.  She prefers peas and fruit to most sweets, but loves chocolate and cookies (such a girl).  She's very attached to mommy, and is VERY shy around people she's not around all the time.  She knows how to work mommy's iphone and loves swimming.  She freaks out at doctors offices, elevators, and anything that resembles a doctor or dentist (not fun.)  She'll dance to just about any music, anytime, anywhere.  She loves other babies and is very excited about the other baby in mommy's tummy, which is good for us.

What surprised you most about parenting?
The thing that surprised me most was that there are no absolute right ways to do ANYTHING.  There are a million different opinions about sleep issues, feeding, nursing/weaning, vaccines, etc.  I didn't expect that and it can be quite confusing when trying to figure out something with your child, especially as first-time parents.

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a Parent?
Based on all these different parenting styles, we've pretty much had to try different things based on what we as parents know about Alexis and trust our instincts. We may do things the same or completely different for the next baby.  I've learned you can't protect your child from everything and you can't compare yourself to other parents.  Every child is unique and different and needs to be raised as such.  For example, I know the cry-it-out method works for lots of babies, but we figured out almost immediately that it wasn't going to work for us.  Therefore we have had to create our own sleep training program (because the others didn't work) to try and get her out of our bed and into hers (still working on it and praying it works, lol.). Weaning was another thing I had to figure out based on lots of other suggestions that didn't work.  Thankfully, she is fully weaned and I'm really happy that we figured out that issue mainly on our own.  Parenting is this crazy, sometimes scary, sometimes exhilarating, roller-coaster ride.  I wouldn't trade it in for anything and I am so in love with my kids and being a mommy!  

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


Monday, March 14, 2011

Cheap Fun: Springtime

Here in Texas, it's Spring Break!! Which means kids at home. Which means bored kids at home. Which means crazy mom (or dad) with bored kids at home. Sigh. Here are some cheap, creative ways to entertain your kiddos during their week off!

1. Explore your bathroom - there are plenty of items in your bathroom that can be used for art projects! Q-tips, cotton balls, toilet paper squares, toilet paper rolls, and old toothbrushes are the ingredients for great works of art. Use q-tips and old toothbrushes to create unique texturized paintbrushes. Glue cotton balls and q-tips to paper to create people/figures, toilet paper rolls can become great kazoos with wax paper and a rubber band- the possibilities are endless!

2. Get out the 'old' toys - You know the toys you've put away in closets, the garage, the attic? Get them out this week. They'll feel like new again to your kids (and you)!

3. Get a library card - If you aren't already a frequent library visitor, there's no better time to become one. Bonus: It's FREE! You can check out books, DVDs, and CDs. Many local libraries also offer story times and other programs for children.

4. Go on a backyard safari - Make paper plate masks of your favorite animals and take them outdoors for a jungle safari!

5. Volunteer - Look up local volunteer opportunities that your child/children might be interested in- whether it's with animals, other children, or spending time with senior citizens. This will pass the time and help others :) Read more...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Parenting Quick Challenge: Don't Praise

I know you read the title of this post and think I'm crazy. I'm not. Keep reading.

Have you ever noticed that when you give your child an accolade ('Good job!" on a piece of artwork, for example), it shuts the conversation down? You haven't? Oh, well it does. Think of it like two adults talking:

Adult 1: "Your outfit looks great today!"

Adult 2: "Thanks!"

Okay...now it's up to Adult 1 to keep the conversation going, otherwise it's pretty much over. It's the same with children. But what if, instead of praising or giving a compliment, you just *notice* something instead?

Adult 1: "I noticed your new haircut yesterday! What made you opt for the change?"

Adult 2: "Oh thanks for noticing! I was just ready for something different and easier to manage."

Adult 1: "I totally understand- I've been ready for a change too. Who do you go to?"


See how it can turn into a whole conversation?

It's the same with children. Instead of just a simple 'Good job' or 'nice work,' try noticing something specific. It will turn short conversations into chances for you to get to know your child in ways you didn't before. This builds self-esteem and self-confidence in your child and let her know that you are taking notice of what she's doing.

Instead of:

"Good job at soccer," try "Wow, you were running like I've never seen before!!"

"Nice artwork," try "How did you decide on these different colors?"

Here's the challenge: When you are about to praise your child today, stop. Notice something instead. Turn it into a conversation. 

Want to read more about noticing instead of praising? Grab a copy of Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting. Read more...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Parent of the Week: Jodi

I have a super awesome, unique Parent of the Week for you this week- Jodi! Two words: Homeschool. Disney. Eeeeee!!! I would have LOVED her homeschool approach when I was young! Go check it out after you read her Avant Garde Parent of the Week post.

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- Who are you? What do you do? Hobbies? Do you dance in the car?
I am Jodi Whisenhunt, a Christian wife, mother, writer, editor, homeschooler, kid taxi and very tired person who is blessed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I run Magical Mouse Schoolhouse, where Disney IS school. It's a fun way to use Walt Disney entertainment to help kids learn while they play.

I've always loved to sing, and I do dance in the car. Trust me, you don't want me dancing anywhere else! 

Tell me about your children.
I have a 15-year-old son who plays JV baseball, loves cars and wants to be a police officer. I also have a 7-year-old daughter who lives for all things pink and sparkly. She wants to be a "maker" (chef) when she grows up and likes to experiment in my spice cabinet. My youngest is a 5-year-old boy. He is all giggles and energy and gets a kick out of beating Mom at Uno.

What surprised you most about parenting?
Well, I had always heard that boys are rambunctious and wild and spirited and that girls were, you know, "sugar and spice and everything nice." That's not the case in our house! My boys have always been the laid back ones, and my girlie girl is the mischievous one I have to keep an eye on. 

How have you had to be Avant Garde as a parent?
I homeschool. Need I say more? LOL! In all honesty, though, teaching my children at home has definitely exercised my creative side and keeps me looking for innovative ways to pique their interest in learning. Magical Mouse Schoolhouse is a perfect example of that effort.

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


Monday, March 7, 2011

Helping Kids Handle Losing

When I was 6, I played soccer. Our team was called 'The Hornets,' only we were nothing like any hornets I've ever experienced. We didn't swarm the ball, we certainly didn't swarm the other team's goal, and I'm fairly confident that no opposing team felt our 'sting' all season. Sigh. 

Our fearless leader, Coach Sherry, reminded us to hustle over orange slices and gatorade on the sidelines. She was ever upbeat and encouraging. I remember one game in particular- I was running with the ball at my feet, no one in sight! I was heading straight for the goal and no one could stop me- not even the goalie, who, oddly, was nowhere to be seen...Then I heard my team calling my name. It was half time. Darn. How embarrassing. 

The Hornets did not win one game that season and honestly, I'm not sure we scored a goal (that counted). But we had a grand ol' time with Coach Sherry, our teammates, and our orange slices and gatorade. 

Every kid will face losing at some point, whether on the field or on a test or at an audition. It's a tough situation and, of course, your heart breaks as a parent when you see your child at the losing end. Here are some tips to help your child learn from the experience and move forward with a positive attitude:

  • Don't compare. Ever. Comparing your child to other children takes the emphasis off of camaraderie and fun. Even more than that, comparisons set your child up for failure in the future. Don't do it. 
  • Take the emphasis off of winning all together. Have you ever asked yourself: Why does it have to be about winning in the first place? Even when your child is on the winning end, try concentrating on aspects of activities like teamwork, diligence, and self discipline. 
  • Help your child set realistic goals for the future. Realistic goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. A realistic goal would be to practice the ballet recital dance 15 minutes three times per week. And UNrealistic goal would be to move from level 1 ballet class to level 5 by the end of the year.

How do you help your child handle losing?

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