How to take good photos of your kids

Yes, even your toddler!

Let’s face it: kids under the age of five can be very difficult to take pictures of. After two or three pictures, they’re already bored, hungry, or screaming, and you’re screaming your head off as well because all you want is one good picture.

I’m not a mom, but I do have a six-year-old brother (we’re 15 years apart!), so whenever I can’t find anyone to model for me, I just take pictures of him. He’s become quite a natural! As soon as I put the camera up to my face, he immediately strikes a pose. Since not everyone has a supermodel child, here are some tips to get some decent photos of your kids:

Don’t think of it as a photo shoot where your child has to stay at an exact spot. Guess what? They’re not going to stay there! Kids like to explore. Follow them around with the camera and take pictures of what they do.

Get down! Take photos from a child’s perspective. It will be more personal and you’ll have more fun as well!

Be crazy! Make silly sounds and faces to make them laugh! If you find that you can’t do this and take pictures at the same time, have someone behind you doing it.

Bubbles! What child doesn’t like bubbles? Have someone blow bubbles off to the side. You’ll get plenty of smiles and the bubbles will add extra “cuteness” to your photos. If your child is old enough, have them blow the bubbles themselves.

If all else fails, get some good crying shots. They’ll be good to show at the wedding.


Experience with bullying

A tenuous situation

When I was a small child, I didn't have to deal much with bullying in my school. It wasn't until high school that bullying really got bad and quite honestly it made my high school years miserable.

I was one of the nerdy kids who spent all his time in science classes and was an easy target for the other kids. I'm older and now I have my own children in school who have to deal with what is seemingly a far more mean group of children.

My oldest is in first grade and has been in school for four years if you include preschool. He's been around the same group of kids and developed his own group of friends. Recently, he told me that one of the students on the bus was picking on him.

This child was one of his friends, but I believe jealousy over a girl's affections brought out his mean streak. I debated what to do. Should I have my son tough it out? Should I get the school involved? Should I contact the parents?

After a few more days with no change, I decided to take the matter up with the boy's parents. It was apparent when I showed up at their door and told them what happened that they weren't surprised. I noticed the boy was bullied by his own older siblings and I can only imagine the punishment that he received.

My son hasn't had any problems since, but I can't help but feel sorry for the bully. It was obvious that his behavior was learned and that in his heart the boy was very good. I hope I was able to stop a bully before he ends up growing up into a bigger bully.


Challenges of step-parenting

I am lucky that there are few issues with this in my home.

I am remarried and have two girls. My husband has two boys, but they are grown up and out of the home. My two girls live with me, and there are often challenges when it comes to this subject. My husband is very good with my daughters, yet he has never had girls before and he considers himself the step-dad.

He doesn’t always feel comfortable showing them love and isn’t quite sure how to handle the challenges of punishing the kids. This really doesn’t involve my 17-year old daughter because she rarely needs to be punished and he feels like he understands her better because of her age. My 10-year old daughter, on the other hand, is a different story.

She is constantly trying to hug and kiss him and he is not sure what to do. He will hug her back, but is very hesitant to kiss her. He wants to show her love, but he often doesn’t know how and he is so afraid that people will think this is weird. To her, she just wants him to love her.

This is just one of the many challenges involved with blended families. I am very fortunate because there are very few issues between my husband and my girls, but this is not always the case. There are many blended families that have extreme issues that involve much more, and one of these things is disrespect. I am glad to have few problems, yet sometimes the small problems I encounter seem to be big to me.

The right teacher?

Drastic change in son's character

My son has had behavioral problems from about the time he was three. There would be 45-minute to an hour tantrums of throwing, kicking, screaming and everything else associated with a full blown tantrum. When he went to preschool, my wife and I worked with his teacher to try and curb these tendencies.

It wasn't easy. He was having the same tantrums at preschool that he would have at home. There were several times when I had to come to school and pick up from the principal's office and many other times when he had to sit with the principal for a while to calm down.

We tried everything. When he went to kindergarten, we had hoped that it would change, but once again it was a hit and miss. He seemed to be finally growing out of the major tantrums and instead replaced with the a need to control. While I never had to pick him up, there were several times when he had to go sit with the principal to calm down.

The anger and tantrums had been replaced with control and defiance. Once again, we worked diligently with the teacher to get it under control, but it was still pretty dicey even at the end of kindergarten. Over the summer, we talked about being a big kid and respecting teachers and authority. I admit to apprehension when school started and waited for that first phone call from the principal. It never came.

A week went by. Two. Three. It was nearing the end of the first quarter and nothing at all. My wife and I were worried no one was telling us about things, but at the same time didn't want to jinx it by making the first call. When we went to the open house, I had the chance to talk to his teacher and she was completely blown away about his past.

My son has been the perfect student all year. No defiance. No outbursts, nothing. My son is an amazing child and I don't know what caused the change, but this year has been great and I tell him how proud I am of him every single day.

How much is enough?

Children are spoiled and feel like they deserve everything.

Knowing how to parent is the hardest job in the world, and one thing I struggle with is knowing how much to give my kids.

I am not talking about how much love to give them or how much time to spend with them; I am talking about material things. The kids today seem to have everything. If you walk into a high school, you are likely to see that the kids are all dressed in name brand clothes. These kids have way nicer wardrobes than I have. If you look in the parking lot, you will see nice cars. The cars many of them drive are way better than the car I drive. How is this possible?

Do the parents of these kids give them money and all of these items? I don’t think it is because the kids work and buy these things themselves. Kids have a way of making us, the parents, feel like we are obligated to give them all of these things, but are we?

I don’t believe that the role of a parent is to give kids everything they want. We should give them the things they need and splurge sometimes, but they shouldn’t have everything they want. This is part of the reason why kids are growing up with attitudes that display the emotion of “I deserve that.” Well, sorry kids – you don’t deserve all those things and your parents do not owe you these things. If things could go back to how they were years ago, parents and children would be happier people.

Activities are good for kids

Joining activities offers numerous benefits for children.

There are many reasons why it is good for children to take part in activities. When kids are as young as one or two years old, you can start bringing them to things like this. Here are some of the benefits of this.


Kids learn how to socialize when they begin interacting with other kids while doing various activities. If your library has story time, you can bring your small children to this. This is one of the first activities that children can do. The kids will begin to learn how to play with other kids and how to sit still to listen to a story.


When a child is involved in an activity, they must go to the practices or meetings on a regular basis. This teaches discipline and it also teaches responsibility. As a parent, you must emphasize that the child is part of a team and that the other teammates will be expecting her to be there. This helps kids understand what it is like to be part of something. It also teaches them that other people rely on them, and this is something that will continue for the rest of the child’s life.

Builds Skills

The only way for a child to really know what he or she is good at is by trying different things. This is also a way that a child can find things to do that he really likes and enjoys. It could end up being something that the child never expected he would like.

Fun fall activities

Farm visits, corn mazes, fire pits and hot apple cider

When the weather starts to turn cooler, people start to head indoors. However, cool weather is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy nature. When fall hits, you don’t have to worry about sweating like crazy or enduring the heat, you can simply get out with the kids and focus on having fun. Lots of fun activities for kids only happen a few months out of the year, so take advantage of them.

For example, you can get out of the house and go visit the farm. A lot happens on farms during the fall. While many farms are winding down their crop season, crops such as corn, pumpkins and apples are still available. Go apple-picking with your kids and take a break to have a glass of fresh apple cider. Visit a pumpkin farm and choose the perfect pumpkins to carve for Halloween or take a hay ride around the pumpkin patch. Get lost in a corn maze, during the day or at night.

If you prefer to stay home, there’s still a lot you can do outside with your kids. If you have a lot of trees, their leaves are probably falling. Rake them up and have fun jumping in them, swimming in them and hiding in them, then jumping out to scare younger brothers and sisters. In the evenings, bundle up and make a fire in your fire pit for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Share the events of your day as you enjoy a dinner around the fire and breathe in the crisp, cool fall air.

A teacher's impact

Teachers play an important role in a child's school year.

As a parent, you usually know when your child likes or dislikes their teacher. The teacher that a child has makes a huge impact on the child, and it also plays a large role in the child’s attitude toward you and toward school.My nine-year old daughter is in fourth grade. Last year, she had a teacher that she really did not like. The teacher has been at the school for many years, and she is very quiet and shy. Some people might say that she does not really have a personality. My daughter, on the other hand, is bubbly and vibrant. Her personality is one of her greatest traits, but it just did not mesh well with her teacher last year. This year, she absolutely loves her teacher. Her teacher is funny, laughs a lot and is just a wonderful woman to be around.

I have noticed that this has really made a big difference in my daughter’s attitude. Now that she likes her teacher, she seems to like school once again. She comes home in a great mood every day, and never says anything bad or negative about school. She is even more willing to do her homework and to correct any papers that need to be fixed.

It is just very surprising to me the difference that a teacher can make. I am not a teacher, but I would think that teachers would realize this. Teachers play a large role in children's lives, and they can make a student’s year great or really bad.

The mean parent

Raise your child well with educational discipline

You want to be the favorite parent. You want your child to be happy and to like you, but you also know that being a good parent requires occasionally disciplining your child. When this happens, you position in the race for favorite parent plummets and you have to become the mean parent. While it’s no fun being the mean parent, you can discipline and be “mean” every now and then without losing your spot as the child’s favorite.

When you discipline your child, make sure your child knows the reason for the discipline and that it’s not just you being mean. Talk about why your child is sitting in time out or has lost use of her favorite toy. After she has been disciplined, talk about why you set rules and the importance of following them. You won’t seem as mean when your child knows that being disciplined is really for good.

If you have a two-parent household, make sure both parents play a role in discipline as well. If one parent stays home and disciplines during the day, make sure the other parent follows through on that discipline during the evening or takes over the task of disciplining for the evening. That way both parents get the opportunity to be the mean parent.

At the end of the day, it’s also important to remember that parenting is not about being your child’s best friend or being your child’s favorite. It’s about raising your child well. Discipline is part of teaching your child how to act and become successful, even if it makes you seem mean or you take a brief fall from the pedestal your child normally puts you on.

Nutrition tips for kids

Teaching your kids to eat right.

Getting children to eat right is not always easy, and it is hard to monitor because kids are not always home with their parents. Teaching children to eat healthy is something that must start when they are young. If you do not start this then, it will be even harder to implement later in life.

Here are a couple of tips to help your children get the proper nutrition that they need.

  • Limit the kinds of beverages they drink. Water is the best thing for a child or adult to drink. Offer ice-cold water to kids for drinks, and make it more exciting by adding a sliced lemon or lime to the drink. Milk is another great drink because it contains the vitamins needed for strong bones. Some kids will not drink milk though and parents should supplement other dairy products for this.
  • Don’t buy junk food. If you do not keep junk food in your home, they will not be able to eat it while they at home. Instead, offer fun types of healthy snacks. Have chopped vegetables and dip on hand at all times. Keep granola or raisins in the cabinet too and offer these snacks to your kids when they are hungry.
  • Make healthy meals. If you are the one doing the cooking, it is up to you to keep the meals healthy. Avoid processed foods, and try to stick with fresh vegetables and lean meats.

If you start these habits while your children are young, your children will probably enjoy these foods more as they grow up.