Handling competition among family

Have simple, honest conversations to eliminate competition.

As parents, it's hard to ignore when other kids reach milestones before your own, especially when those kids are nieces and nephews. While their intentions may be good or their comments may be innocent, family members often like to compare children who are close in age or ask why another child has yet to pick up a skill the other child mastered months ago.While you may be able to ignore these comments from random acquaintances and even friends, it's much harder when they come from family. First of all, the comments feel like digs on your parenting abilities. Beyond that, you may begin to feel like your child is being compared more than he is being praised.

Thankfully, you can also be more honest with family members than with others. If you find the comparisons or general competition is getting out of control, take the time to speak up. Say something like "I feel you're not focusing on my child's accomplishments when you compare the two of them" or "my child feels left out by all of the attention you're placing on her accomplishments."

Simple, honest statements will help family members focus less on comparisons and competition and focus instead on each individual child's strengths. They may also cause temporary hurt feelings. However, by being honest now, you can save your children years of frustration because they are not able to "keep up" with another family member and begin to build positive relationships with your relatives.

Good shows for toddlers

Allow your toddler to watch television shows strategically

While you want to limit your toddler’s time in front of the TV and engage him in hands-on activities and other play, sometimes you just need a break or something to entertain your toddler while you do a load of laundry or make breakfast. Those are the times you turn to the TV. There’s nothing wrong with letting your toddler watch a little TV every now and then, but when you do, you should pay attention to what your toddler is watching.Not all shows are designed for toddlers. Cartoons on stations such as Cartoon Network are designed for older children and often have a lot of fast action. Watching too many fast-moving shows can decrease your toddler’s attention span. Your toddler may also be introduced to violence and other themes you’re not quite ready for her to hear about. The same is true for some shows on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel.

Instead of simply turning on the TV, pay attention to what your child is watching. Look for slower-moving TV shows, for example choosing a show like Caillou over a show like SpongeBob. Also focus on picking shows with an educational focus. At your toddler’s age, you do not simply want him to watch mindless TV for an hour or two. Channels such as PBS, Sprout, Nick Jr. and Disney Junior offer programs designed to help young children learn.  If you don’t have cable, many of the shows are also available on DVD or through Netflix.

Getting ready for school

Make a plan now to make the most of your time.

Now is the time when children will be going back to school. As a mother, this can be a combination of a good thing and a bad thing. It is often bittersweet, but it is inevitable. School is a good thing for children, even though most kids prefer to be on summer vacation.As a mother, sending the kids back to school is always something that is hard for me. Because I work from home, it is good to have that time during the day where no one is bothering me. On the other hand though, we are back to a tight schedule and I actually miss my kids while they are gone.

With school in session, I always feel like I have to be more organized. For me this is a good thing though because I tend to get so much more accomplished each day. I have to wake the kids up at a certain time and have them out the door by a certain time. I like to make sure that I get my shower in before all of this because that way when they leave, I am ready to begin doing all of the things I need to do. There is a lot to squeeze into the hours in which they are gone, and I like to start right away.

When the kids get home from school, I like to be done with all of my work and errands. This leaves more time for me to focus on them, their homework, dinner and everything else the evenings hold.

Running errands with toddlers

Running errands with a toddler in tow requires a lot of patience and careful planning. Parents who just throw a toddler into the car and go often end up facing tantrums, messes and a fear of never leaving the house again. However, when you plan in advance, running errands with a toddler can actually be a fairly stress-free experience and a good learning experience for your toddler.The time you run your errands is key. If your toddler naps regularly, that nap time will determine when you run your errands. If your child naps at 1 p.m., you do not want to leave the house at noon, because the closer you get to 1 p.m., the more disagreeable your toddler may become. Most toddlers are at their best in the mornings, before lunch time.

Of course, other factors can contribute to how well your toddler does while running errands. Being hungry or bored can also make running errands a challenge. Be sure to take a snack and water or juice with you and keep a few juice boxes and snacks in your trunk in case of emergencies. Let your toddler take along a toy too and plan to play a game or two while you are out. Games such as “I Spy” are great to teach your toddler and save for while you’re running errands.

When your toddler is awake, not hungry and entertained, you are more likely to be able to run errands with your toddler in tow successfully. However, if you have a toddler, you know that tantrums can be unpredictable, so also be flexible, avoid leaving errands to the last minute and remember that if your child doesn’t do well, you’re not the first one to have experienced a screaming toddler in the bank, at the post office or in the grocery store.

Getting a new pet

The other day, my two-year-old was watching some of his favorite characters build a dog house.  He asked me if we could make a dog house too and I told him we didn’t need a dog house because we didn’t have a dog.  His response, “Well, we just have to go get one.”

While I didn’t go into detail about how I am not a dog person nor mention that we would never get him a dog, I did use it as an opportunity to talk with him about the responsibilities of pet ownership. I also began to think about when I might be ready to get him his own pet.Getting a pet is a big deal for a family. Even if you already have pets, a new pet gives you another mouth to feed and another being to clean up after and give attention to. If your child wants a pet, he must be ready to help fill those needs. Toddlers and preschoolers get bored with things quickly, so getting a pet that requires minimal care and attention, such as a guinea pig, hamster or goldfish, may be a better option than a puppy or kitten.

When your child turns 6 or 7 and is able to take care of a dog or a cat, you still need to make sure he is ready. Before adopting a pet, take a trial run by borrowing a friend’s cat or dog for a few days. If your child handles feeding, playing with and cleaning up after the animal well, it’s time to start looking.  If your child shows little interest in the animal or neglects to take responsibility, it may be time to hold off on getting a new pet.

Dealing with bad attitudes

Teaching children how to be respectful is not easy.

One of the worst characteristics of my children is their attitudes. They do not have bad attitudes all the time, but this negativity does appear far too often. I have read things written by experts that state that if you don’t correct this when a child is young, by the time the kids are teenagers they may be really bad.I have always tried to teach my kids good manners and to be polite. Other people that are around my children always tell me how good they are. I get compliments about both of my girls from people all the time. When this happens, I often think to myself, “I wonder if they are really talking about my girls?” I say this half-jokingly because I do know that my girls are very polite and they are both great girls. I guess that they only show their bad attitudes around me and their father.

If I had to have it one way or the other, I guess I would rather have them treat others politely, but I still think that they should treat me that way too. When they begin to be disrespectful, I always correct them and explain to them that this is not right. I think they know this and both of them will apologize to me after it happens. It might take them a while to think about it, but eventually they will tell me they are sorry. Kids can all have bad attitudes sometimes, but I have to remind myself that parents also are not always the greatest role models, including myself.

The importance of taking care of yourself

Mothers forget to take care of themselves because of their demands in life.

Parents, or mothers especially, are often so overly concerned about their children that they fail to take care of themselves. Taking care of you is just as important as taking care of your kids. If you don’t care for yourself, you will not be able to do your best job at taking care of your children.Taking care of yourself simply means looking out for your own health and sanity. Time away from your kids is not a bad thing, but it can actually be a good thing. Going to a health club to work out or to an exercise class is an example of something good that you can do for yourself.

One major thing I fail to do is to eat properly. There are so many days that I make lunch for my children and I am too busy to sit down and eat with them. While they are scarfing down their meals, I am busy picking up around the house. If I spent five minutes eating with them would it really prevent me from accomplishing everything I need to do for the day? Probably not, but I still feel like it will.

Eating properly is important and exercise is also important. If you have to, bring your kids along with you on a walk or bike ride. You will not only be getting the important exercise that you need, but you will also be able to spend some quality time with them. Make the most of your time and your days, but never forget to take care of yourself.




Getting out of the house

When you have young kids, especially if you have more than one young kid, venturing out of the house to run errands or visit local attractions can be tiring. You feel like you have to pack the entire house for a simple trip the grocery store. Let’s face it. When you have young children, staying in the house is a lot easier than venturing out. However, even if it is easier to just stay at home, it is important to get out of the house every now and then.

Getting out of the house improves your mood. You may not feel like you’re in the best mood when you’re pushing a shopping cart full of screaming children through the grocery store or lugging a 30-pound child who got tired of walking and riding in the stroller at the zoo, but once you successfully return for an outing, you will realize how much you needed to get away from the box that you call home.

Your children can also learn a lot by leaving their box. Outside of your front door lie parks, museums, toy stores, carnivals and a wealth of other learning opportunities for your children. They can build social skills as they interact with other children on the playground or learn about nutrition and money at the grocery store. They will also learn about discipline as you teach them what types of behavior are acceptable in the different places you visit.  For example, they must be quiet in the library, must use a fork at a restaurant and hold your hand in parking lots.

Sure, staying home may be easier, but getting out every once in a while is a lot better for you and a lot more fun.

Go and spend a day at the beach

Take some time off to do something fun.

The other day I decided to stop everything I was doing, load up my kids and head out to the beach. While I do try to balance my time working and having fun with my kids, sometimes I just need to divert from my schedule. This is what I did that day.

I announced to my kids that they needed to stop what they were doing, get their swimsuits on and get ready to leave for the beach in 15 minutes. They were slightly astonished because this is out of my normal character, but it was the best thing I have done in a long time.

I have been having trouble getting my work done since they have been home on summer vacation. Since I work from home, it can be hard to work while they are here. I was feeling stressed out and I needed some time to get away from all of the problems of ordinary, normal life.

They were thrilled because they were both bored at the time. We drove to the beach, stopped along the way for lunch and we just hung out there for several hours. It really did a lot of good for me and the kids. It was a great time for me to re-focus and it was good for them because I think they were happy that I spent some time with them.

Next time you are feeling stressed out, I suggest that you stop what you are doing and go and do something fun or relaxing. It will be good for your kids and it will be great for you.

Cool places to play for free this summer

And places that are cheap to play at, too!

Now that summer has officially arrived and most of us in the Midwest are sweating bullets (as any native will tell you, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!”), it’s really time to start finding creative ways to have fun with our families without getting too hot. We can play outside in the pool or sprinkler (or even the shade) for a while, but certainly not for the full day. So what do we do?

Here are some creative, free and cheap places that you can use to play at this summer.

The grocery store. You think I’m joking, right? The last place you want to drag a bunch of hot and cranky children is the store, where they will beg for everything in sight! But you know what? We keep running into friends at the store and our kids play so well and have such a good time while we chat. If it’s not crowded, they might race up and down an aisle; they might play pretend with loose toys (like stuffed animals) or “detective” to find certain items in the store. It’s cool, free and fun.

Local field trips. Head over to the hardware store and introduce your child to every tool available, or go to the movie store and interview a worker. Go to a restaurant just for dessert and water (share if you want!) and play tic tac toe with the waiter/waitress every time he or she returns to the table. (Be sure to tip!) Tour the library, the local historical society and the recreation center. See who offers free tours. Really get to know your town while keeping cool at the same time.

Volunteer centers. There are lots of indoor volunteer opportunities in many communities. Maybe the senior center could use help with mailing materials and stuffing envelopes, or a local hospice could use a typist. Assisted living facilities could always use a reader of stories or a painter of fingernails—while food pantries could usually use help sorting food. You could help people while not drowning in your own sweat—and teach your children about giving back at the same time.

Sample counters. Take a trip to the food court and try every sample—then hang out at the children’s play place! Many supermarkets host sample days as well; call yours and see when it will be, then take the kids to have a walking picnic! If you like something, why not take a bit home (or to the park after it cools off)?