You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Baby talk! Encouraging language development in your child.

Facial expressions are important in the development of language in children!

Talking to your child and using lots of animated facial expressions are important for your child’s language development!

Believe me, hearing the sweet voice of your child say “Ma Ma” or “Da Da” is one of those moments you always remember.  Later, I can remember thinking….”Maybe I should change my name, I am tired of hearing “MO-OMMMM!” Suddenly it was a two syllable word that rocked the house!  Now, I love hearing “Mom” when I get that phone call or one of the kids bursts through the door for a visit!  The fact is, language development in your child is exciting and fun, and early development is important.  Studies show us that the number of words your child hears is proportionate to the size of his or her vocabulary that is developed.  This is through direct spoken words to your child, through conversation or reading, not words heard from the TV or radio, or conversations around your child.  Some experts tell us that a parent should be saying 30,000 words per day to their child.  Wow, that is a lot of talking!  Now I tell you this as a fun fact, not to have you tally mark each word you say to your child!  I don’t want to add another task to your day, or worry to your list!  The 30,000 per day number does send the message home though that talk is important, and as parents we have to work at talking and reading to our children!  In this age of TV, computers, I-Pods and I-Pads, and smart phones; sometimes the spoken word and art of conversation is lost.  As a parent we need to bring that art of truly talking with our children back!

What can we do to foster language development in our children?

  • Talk to your child!  When your infant is looking at you or an object…talk to your child!  When your child coos, coo back…this is the start of the art of conversing.  Describe what your baby is seeing.  Talk about what you are doing during the day.  Read stories and talk about the pictures in board books.  Studies show that children that hear 30,000 words a day from birth to age 3 have better language skills at 3 but also have an academic edge still in 3rd grade…no matter the socioeconomic level!  TALK A LOT TO YOUR CHILD!  It can be the great equalizer for academic success!
  • Repeat.  This helps a child link sound and the meaning of words.  By the time a child is about 1, they have most of the sounds that put words together, they just don’t have the words!  Repetition helps a child put those sounds into words.
  • Always respond to any sound your child makes.  When your baby coos, talk back.  When your child squeals with a favorite toy, talk about how much your child likes that special toy.  When your child babbles and reaches for an item, say what the item is before you give it to your child.
  • Play taking turn games.  This teaches conversation!  Blow on your baby’s tummy and wait for his response.  Repeat it again.  Play peek-a-boo and other games that encourage taking turns in conversation…cause and effect.
  • Eye contact.  Your child needs to see your face when you are talking.  This helps your child see how the words are formed by watching your mouth.  Your smiles, facial expressions and encouragement gives your child positive reinforcement for their attempts in communicating.
  • “Motherese” is good!  The high-pitched sing-song voice most moms use to talk to their baby is good!  Babies like the pitch of this type of talk and the slow pace helps them understand better.  Teach Dad how to do it!  It tends to come more naturally to Moms.
  • Give your child the opportunity to talk.  Don’t anticipate every need, allow your child to point and make attempts to ask for what he or she wants.
  • Narrate your day.  Talk to your baby as you change a diaper, give a bath, cook a meal.  Describe what you are doing and what your child is doing.
  • Expand your child’s communication.  When your child says “dog”, you can say “Yes that is a dog!  It is a brown dog!”
  • Read.  Reading is a great opportunity to engage with your child.  Your child will learn more words and will develop a love of books.  Hearing the same book over and over helps to make language connections in your child’s brain.
  • Go on field trips!  Take your child to the grocery, the post office, on hikes…talk about what you see!  Watch your child, and see what he or she is interested in or excited about.  Talk about that rock or stick he or she picks up!
  • Use music.  Music encourages your child to pronounce words and practice putting sentences together.  Songs also help children remember things…I still can’t put things in alphabetical order without singing my A B C’s!  🙂
  • Play language games.  Point and name games like “Where is your nose?” “This is Mommy’s toes, where are your toes?”  Helps your child become
  • aware of himself and make language connections, plus it is fun!
  • Don’t worry but refer early.  There is a wide range of normal with speech development.  Don’t obsess and worry over your child’s development of speech.  Every day work on providing the opportunities to allow your child’s speech to develop.  If you have questions or concerns, the earlier you refer for evaluation, the easier most speech delays can be handled.

Language Milestones from The American Speech – Language – Hearing Association

0-3 Months

  • Baby will startle to sound
  • Quiets or smiles when you speak to him
  • Recognizes your voice
  • Smiles at you
  • Coos

4-6 Months

  • Babbles and uses sounds with p, b and m
  • Laughs
  • Makes excitement sounds and unhappy sounds
  • Makes gurgling sounds
  • Likes music

7 Months – 1 Year

  • Likes “peek-a-boo”, “patty cake”, “soo big!”
  • Uses “speech” not crying to sometimes get your attention.
  • Uses gestures like pointing, putting arms up, waving.
  • Recognizes words that you say like “cup” and other common words.
  • Starts to follow 1 step directions.
  • About the first birthday will have about 2 or 3 words like ball, ma ma, da da, dog.

1 Year – 2 Year

  • Points to pictures in a book when named.
  • Knows animal sounds.
  • Points to a few body parts when asked.
  • Can say a two word question or sentence by age 2.
  • Vocabulary expanding every month.

2 Year – 3 Year

  • Follows two step directions.
  • Has a word for almost everything.
  • Is understood most of the time by those with him often.
  • Speaks in 2 to 3 word sentences.
  • Starting to understand concepts like big and little, up and down, in and on.

When do you refer?

  • A baby who doesn’t respond to sound or who doesn’t make vocal sound.
  • A child who does not point, or wave “bye bye” at 12 months.
  • A child at 18 months that uses gestures over words to communicate.
  • A child at age 2 or older that only imitates speech and does not speak spontaneously.
  • A child at age 2 who can’t follow simple 1 or 2 step directions.
  • A child at age 2 who parents are unable to understand at least 1/2 of the child’s speech, or a 3 year old child that a parent cannot understand 3/4 of the child’s speech.
  • A 4 year old child who is not understandable by others.
  • Don’t sit and worry….refer early.  Most speech referrals are made between 15 months and 2 years of age.

Remember, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are like little language sponges.  Talk, talk, talk, and turn that TV off!  Your child will soon be yelling “MO-OMMMMM!”….be careful what you wish for!!  🙂

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Keep your precious cargo safe by using a car seat correctly!

Parents must be sure that their child’s car seat is being used correctly…we all have precious cargo!

I read an article this week that really shocked me.  There was a study where 22,000 children in car seats were randomly checked at gas stations.  Only 3 percent of children between the age of 1 and 3 were in a properly installed backward facing car seat.  Only 10 percent of 8 to 10-year-old children were in a properly installed booster seat or car seat!  That is such a scary thought since car accidents are the leading cause of death for children.  But to be honest, car seats are not easy to install correctly!   The manuals are long and sometimes confusing, there are different recommendations by auto manufacturers, and I know the installation of a car seat has caused many an argument between Moms and Dads!

The newest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics state that until at least age 2 your child should sit in a rear facing seat and preferably a child should be rear facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer (that means your child most likely will be older than age 2 and still rear facing).  Children over the age of 2 can sit in a front facing seat with a 5 point harness until their weight and height exceeds the car seat’s recommendation for the seat.  A booster seat should be used until a child is 57 inches tall, which is the average height of an 11-year-old (wow…bet you didn’t realize that!)  No child should sit in the front seat until age 13! 

Types of car seats:

  • Rear facing only

This seat is used for infants up to 22 to 40 pounds depending on the seat.  They are small and have handles to carry the seat.  Some have a base that can be left in the car.

  • Convertible seats that can be used for rear facing

These seats can be used rear facing and then “converted” to forward facing when your child is older.  They are bigger than infant seats and do not have handles or a separate base.  They often have a higher rear facing weight and height limits which is great for larger babies.  They should have a 5 point harness.

  • 3 in 1 seats

These seats can be used rear facing, forward facing and as a booster.  They may be used longer by your child. (But remember every seat has an expiration date…about 5-6 years)

Installation for rear facing

  • The shoulder straps should be at or below your baby’s shoulders.
  • The straps should be snug (you shouldn’t be able to pinch any slack) and the chest clip should be at the nipple line.
  • The seat should be tight in the car.  You should not be able to move it more than an inch side to side or front to back.
  • Never put a rear facing seat in the front seat of a car!
  • Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your baby’s head does not flop down.  Many seats have an angle indicator or adjusters that can help with this.
  • I recommend having a certified car seat technician help install the car seat.  This will help with the many questions parents have and may even prevent Mom and Dad from having an argument!  🙂  Check out this website for information on locations of car seat technicians in your area.  http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm

Common questions about rear facing infants

  • What if my child’s feet touch the back of the car seat?

No problem…your baby will cross his legs and find a comfortable position.  There are few reports of leg injuries from a crash with a baby in this position, but a leg injury is a much less severe injury than a head and neck injury which you are helping to prevent by keeping your child backward facing until age 2 or older.

  • What do I do if my baby is slouching in the seat?

You may put blanket rolls on both sides of your baby and a small cloth diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your baby for a while until your baby grows a bit.  Do not ever put padding or blankets or anything behind your baby or add any car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the car seat.  Any additions to a seat may make it work a bit differently and provide less protection for your baby!

  • What do I do about winter coats?

Remember that thick winter coats, blankets, or clothing should not be put under the car seat harness or straps.  Dress your baby in thin layers and then tuck a blanket around your baby over the harness straps if necessary.

Installation of forward facing seats

  • Always know the restrictions of your model.  Know the maximum weight and height limits for your seat!
  • The shoulder straps should be in the slots that are at  or above your child’s shoulders. (This is the opposite from the rear facing position)
  • You may need to adjust the angle of the seat when you turn it to forward facing, check your car seat manual.
  • Choose to use the LATCH system if your car or van has it OR the seat belt.  Do not use both.  Check your car or van manual and your car seat manual for proper installation with the LATCH or seat belt. Latch does have a weight limit of 65 lbs total, meaning the weight of the car seat plus your child.  If the car seat and your child together weighs over 65 lbs, then you must use the seat belt to secure the seat.
  • Use a tether strap.  This is a strap that attaches to the top of the seat.  It is often on the seat back of the car or van.  This gives extra protection by not allowing the car seat and your child’s head to move too far forward in a crash.  All vehicles manufactured from 2000 on have them.  Check the weight limit for the use of the tether anchor.

Common questions about forward facing car seats.

  • Where is the safest spot for the car seat in the back?

The safest spot is where the seat can be installed properly, it is convenient for you to use safely every time.  Some LATCH systems are only on the sides of the back seat.  Some car seats only fit well in the middle.  It depends on your car seat, your vehicle and the number of children you have on where is best for the car seat!

  • Should we use a car seat on a plane?

Most infant and convertible car seats can be used on planes.  The seat must have a FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval label on it.  The FAA and the AAP recommend that children use car seats when flying until age 4.  This keeps your child safer during takeoff and landing and in turbulence.

So much information…but so important to keep your child safe.  We will continue the conversation over the next few days with more tips.  What car seat do you use?  Why do you like it?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Celebrate the 4th safely…be careful with sparklers!

The 4th of July is this week!  It is the epitome of summer to me.  Cook outs, parades, watermelon, homemade ice cream, family time, and of course fireworks.  I know there will be many children who will be celebrating the day with sparklers.  Many parents feel that sparklers are a harmless “fire work” that the youngest of children can handle.  Sparklers burn at a temperature of about 1200 to  1500 degrees F.  That is hotter than any oven that we latch with child protective latches!  The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 45 percent of all firework injuries are to children younger than age 15 and many of those injuries are caused by sparklers.  Injuries to hands and eyes top the list of firework injuries, and many are serious.  I encourage families to enjoy the public displays of fireworks and resist the temptation to “do it yourself”.  Think twice about sparklers and other fireworks. Be sure that your children realize that sparklers are very hot and should be treated with caution and fireworks are especially dangerous.  Think about alternatives…what about glow sticks for all the young children at your house?  Glow sticks have been in abundance at dollar stores, the dollar aisle at Target and Michael’s.  These are fun and much safer. They are not safe for those children who will put them in their mouth however.  Flash lights are fun to play with at dark too….another safe way to “light up the night”.

What can you do to help prevent an injury from ruining your celebration of the 4th?

  • If you are using sparklers, all children must be closely supervised.
  • Make sure that children hold the sparklers at arm’s distance and away from clothing.
  • Children should stand far apart when holding sparklers, discourage running while holding them.
  • Light a sparkler while a child holds it, do not try to pass a lit sparkler.
  • Have buckets of water near so that children can drop the sparkler in the bucket when finished.  The sparkler sticks stay hot for quite awhile after the “sparkle” is done.

For those parents of older children…there has been an increase in popularity of “sparkler bombs” where a large number of sparklers are taped together and lit.  These “bombs” can explode with reports of mailboxes and garbage cans being destroyed by them.  There have been children who have lost hands and experienced other serious injuries with this unsafe use of sparklers.  Just a heads up…not something I was aware of!

So celebrate the 4th with family time, food, and fun.  Head to the local parade,  forget those strict bedtimes and head  to the public fireworks display.  Keep safety in mind if you celebrate with sparklers …a trip to the emergency room is never a good ending to any celebration.  Stay safe, wave a flag and celebrate the USA.…Glow sticks anyone?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


The potty dance, M&Ms and other potty rewards!

The reward of choice at our house during potty training… one M&M for peeing, two M&Ms for pooping and Mommy always got some too!

We have talked about when to start potty training, how to “ditch the diapers” and get moving on the process, what to do with some “potty pitfalls” and a technique to help a resistant trainer…now, for the question your toddler will think is the most important…“What do I get when I potty?”  

As a parent, we quickly learn that children respond to reinforcement.  We can encourage behavior that we like with reinforcement, and unintentionally, we can encourage behavior we don’t like with reinforcement!  Rewards or reinforcement come in many different forms and different ones work for different kids!

The first thing to remember about children is that your attention is the biggest reward or incentive to a child.  That attention is so important in your child’s development.  This is the important part, attention is attention to a child.   Negative attention, lots of yelling, words, emotion and time spent on a negative behavior will probably increase that behavior!  So lots of yelling, words, emotion and time spent on potty accidents or pottying resistance will increase that type of behavior.  Ignoring or giving very little attention to potty accidents or pottying resistance will decrease that type of behavior.

So let’s talk about some incentives that have worked for toddlers that are working on that huge task of potty training.

  • Positive attention.  Hugs, words of praise, clapping, high fives, song singing, and yes the potty dance.  A little dance celebrating that poop or pee in the potty!
  • Stickers.  Many children after the age of 2 respond well to stickers and a sticker chart.  Let your child pick out stickers at the store and place that sticker on a chart when your child sits on the potty at first, and then later as they go poop or pee.  Some children prefer to “wear” their sticker, or even get to wear one and place one on the chart too.
  • Treats.  M & Ms were the treat of choice in my house with potty training.  As I have said, I used them to reward myself too for the success!  Again, you would start out rewarding for sitting on the potty and then eventually for going potty.  Other suggestions would be raisins, marshmallows, or any other treat that your child would not receive routinely.  Sometimes a jar of these treats placed in plain view is a motivator for children.
  • Dye the toilet water.  Put a few drops of red or blue food coloring in the water, when your child pees…wow it changes to orange or green!  A motivator for learning to pee on the toilet!  Also helpful when little boys are learning to aim a bit better.  A handful of Cheerios as targets also work.
  • Stamps.  Some children are more excited about stamps than stickers.  Put a stamp on your child’s hand, cheek, tummy, let them decide!  The problem may be convincing them to wash them off in the tub!
  • Coloring book.  Pick out a coloring book together.  Every time your child has success, let him color a page.
  • Marbles or coins.  Every time your child is successful, let him place a marble or coin in a jar.  After a certain number of marbles or coins, he gets a prize.  This works well for a child that has been progressing in potty training and is trying to go several days without accidents.  Not a good choice for the very start when children need an immediate reinforcement every time there is a success.

I know there are other incentives or reinforcements that have worked.  The point is, your child has to think the reward has value to him and it must be a reward and not a bribe.  A bribe is given before the potty success…a reward is given after a potty success.  Always reward, don’t bribe.  Rewards that are temporary also seem to be more effective too.  The sticker will be taken off, the stamp washes off, the candy is eaten…..this gives incentive to get another!

All of us respond well to positive reinforcement.  All of us like to be rewarded.  Find one that works for your child and your potty training experience will be a little easier.  It might be nice to find one for yourself too….wish they would have had peanut butter M & Ms when I was potty training my kids!

Share a potty training incentive that worked for you and your child!!  We all are in this together.  🙂

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Steps 7-12…helping your child develop self-confidence

The next 6 steps a parent can take to help a child develop that ever important self-confidence!

7.  Promote independence

  • Let a child explore his or her world freely.  Make your home as safe as possible so mobile infants and toddlers can explore safely.  Let your child “step away” from you!  Take a deep breath and let your child go down that slide or climb those monkey bars!   Expose your child to new experiences whenever you can.  The more people, places, and experiences the better a child will be able to navigate their world.
  • Give your child chores.  Toddlers and preschoolers benefit from taking on new responsibilities.  School age children and teens need daily responsibilities at home that increase with age.  Children that have chores feel a part of the family and needed. This builds their self-confidence.
  • Break things into small tasks.  Many children will look at a task and simply say “I can’t”.  As a parent we can help by breaking things down into very small steps.  When learning to tie a shoe, it is much easier if the child practices one part at a time, and then we can encourage and celebrate when that small part is mastered.  When an older child comes home with 30 math problems, break those problems down into groups of 5 and then celebrate or take a break after each five.  Accomplishing parts of the whole, builds a child’s confidence to tackle large projects and embark on new ones.
  • Introduce your child to other adults and encourage them to have loving relationships with these adults.  Spending time away from you with grandparents, aunts and uncles, Godparents, and close friends shows your child that others can meet his or her needs too—and that many people love and care for him or her too.  This is especially important as your child gets older, he or she may need to look to other trusted adults for advice.  Knowing that others care about them and can offer support and advice, builds confidence in decision making.  Surround your child with loving adults!

8.  Give your child moral guidance

  • Instill moral values in your child.   Every child and adult will at sometime find themselves in difficult situations, and they will need self-confidence in their values to make difficult decisions.  Root your child in their faith and/or family values, this will provide them the confidence they need to make those tough moral decisions.
  • Help your child be comfortable with his morals and values well before the teen years.  Moral values should be taught at a very young age, and incorporated into daily life.  This will help a child to be confident enough in his values to confident to resist peer pressure in those crucial teen years.  By age 3 children are beginning to develop empathy and the beginnings of a moral core.  By age 7 children have developed a conscience and will have defined right and wrong.
  • Raise a caring child.  A child who truly cares for others and gives of himself or herself expecting nothing in return develops confidence.  As a parent ask yourself if you are a good role model of caring.  Do you volunteer in the community?  Do you provide opportunities for your family to volunteer together?  Do you provide activities that may encourage good deeds like a “caring basket” that children can draw a good deed out of each day?  Remember children will model the behavior that is most prominent in a home.  Behavior is more influential than words.

9.  Give your child a secure home

  • Keep your home peaceful and protect your child from adult problems.  A child should not witness parents yelling and arguing constantly.  Adult problems should be kept adult so a child feels confident in their security at home.
  • Consistent loving discipline will help your child feel secure and confident in their behavior.  Knowing what is expected and the consequences of misbehavior will help your child feel secure.  Discipline should never be scary or demeaning because that type of discipline undermines a child’s confidence.  Your child should know that his action was not acceptable not him.

10.  Do not attempt to buy your child’s self-confidence.

  • Parents need to remember that they cannot make children happy and confident by buying the newest and best.  Buying the latest toy, video game or outfit will not make your child more confident with his or her peers.  The happiness or confidence will be very short lived, as it is not an internal quality.  Raising a confident child means that you have given your child the tools needed to be successful and happy—not bought them.

11.  Be a good example to your child.

  • You must be aware of how you react to your own mistakes or shortcomings.  If your child consistently sees Mom or Dad melting down in frustration, or beating themselves up after mistakes or continual negative words about themselves, then your child will pick up on this reaction.  Children learn by your example, and will react similarly when something goes wrong for them.  Try to demonstrate positive reactions to frustrating situations, rather than anger or negative self talk.
  • Be a “can do” parent.  Accept challenges at work and at home in a positive way.  Once again, if you negative talk, your child will learn that behavior.

12.  Help your child deal with defeats.

  • Let your child know that your love and support does not change with a failure or defeat.  When a child experiences a failure or defeat, help your child concentrate on the process.  What went wrong?  What did you learn from it?  Your child will use this new knowledge the next time a challenge comes.  Your child’s self-confidence will not increase when you protect him or her from disappointments, it will decrease when he or she finally realizes the truth, life can be challenging and not everything is successful.
  • Your child’s self-confidence is affected by your thoughts and feelings about him.  What you think of your child will result in what your child will think of himself.  Children will experience plenty of criticism and adversity in life—that is why a parent’s love and confidence in them is so incredibly important.  Watch your words and actions, love your child unconditionally, support your child when he or she fails…help your child regroup and start again.
So, these 12 parenting tips will guide you in providing your child with the tools and experiences to build a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.  There are few things more rewarding for a parent than seeing your child find his or her niche in life and embrace it with confidence. Be patient, allow your child to do this on his own, we parents can’t do it for our child.  Provide the basics and then step back and let your child discover who he or she truly is, embrace that person, and then live a life that leaves this world a little better…isn’t that what hope for the future is?

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.



Tell the people you love, “You rock!”

Don’t just tell your kids they “rock”…tell them why!

A little “Throw back Thursday”…..a post that helps us to remember to tell those we love the most why we do!  Happy Thursday!

I was getting ready to mail a card to my college aged kids the other day.  I try to send a “snail mail” card every couple of weeks.  I have a lot of contact with my college kids by texting and cell phones, but there is something about that written piece of mail in a mailbox that I think kids still love.  The cards I send usually are “miss you” or “hang in there” or just “love you” with a little bit of news and maybe a few dollars just because.  As I was writing a quick note on one of the cards I had purchased, I read it again.  It was simply “you rock”.  Nice thought…because my kids do rock…but the more I thought about it, I realized that I often tell them how proud I am, or that I love them, or that they are great but I don’t often tell them what specifically makes them so wonderful!   I then wrote why my daughter “rocked”; the things that were special and unique about her that I loved.  I received a text later thanking me for the card and saying it would be one she would “save forever.” (Not even a mention of the money!) 🙂

How often do we give our kids and other special people in our lives compliments, but have no specifics, just words?  Studies show us that compliments that specifically tell our children what they are doing is right or what is special about them helps them build high self-esteem.  It is nice to hear that you are a good kid, but better to hear why.  I thought about myself, it is great when I hear “I love you” but better when someone tells me what about me they love.

So, I challenge all of us this next week to take a moment and write or say why those special people in our lives are so great.  What makes you proud of them?  Why is your child or spouse so special?  What are some of your favorite qualities in your loved ones?  Let’s look at our partners and kids this next week and truly tell them why “they rock!”

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Steps 1-6…helping your child develop self-confidence

Self-confidence is more than just a warm and fuzzy term.  Studies show that people who have high self-esteem and confidence are more successful in school, get along better with friends, are less influenced by peer pressure, and better handle the difficulties of life.  There is no quick fix for confidence.  It is built slowly; it starts with a good foundation during infancy, and with ongoing care throughout a child’s life.  Hopefully when a child becomes a teen, they have developed enough confidence to stand for the values you instill, and not bend with peer pressure.  As an adult, a confident person will be very successful.  Starting now, with positive parenting, your child will develop a healthy self-esteem and the confidence they will need in life.

1.  Establish trust

  • The development of a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence starts at birth.  The infant/parent bonding process is so important.  How well a parent responds to a child’s needs is what builds a secure attachment and trust in Mom, Dad and the world.  Feeding, holding, cuddling gives a child basic trust in the world that helps him feel confident later in life.  You cannot spoil an infant!
  • As your child gets older, it is important to spend quality time.  There should be time spent that is simply fun.  With several children, there must be one on one time with each of the children in the family.  This does not have to be large amounts of time and expensive outings.  This can be as simple as a few minutes each day at bedtime.  Your child needs to feel that you like being with him…
  • You must accept your child.  Every child is different.  Some children will be the life of every party or have many friends, other children are more introverted or cautious.  This world is a better place because we have many types of personalities.  If your child only has a couple of friends, this does not mean that he or she is not confident.  This may be just their personality or temperament.  Do not compare your children if you have more than one, and do not compare your child to your own personality.  Your child must trust that you accept him or her for who they are.

2.  Be consistent

  • Consistency helps a child feel secure which helps a child concentrate on discovering the world. By simply comforting your baby every time he or she cries and saying goodbye every time you leave your toddler and preschooler you will eventually let your child know that he can trust you.  As your child grows, you must continue to parent consistently.  There must be consistent rules in the home and consistent consequences.  A child feels more secure if there is predictability in the home.  Discipline does not break a child’s self-confidence; it helps a child build it.  Consistency allows your child to be comfortable enough in his life to embrace challenges.

3.  Be a mirror…reflect who your child is back to him.

  • Children see themselves through the eyes of others.  Parents start this by mirroring a child.  When an infant smiles, you smile back.  When an infant coos, you coo back.  When a toddler draws a picture, you describe it back to him.  This shows the child that he is valuable just being himself.  Continually telling your child that he or she is great or is nice is positive but not as helpful as mirroring.  A parent needs to be more specific.  Example:  “You have built a great tower using all the square blocks!”  “You sat so quietly in church today, I am so proud of you!”  This is not empty praise, but constructive praise.
  • Praise should be for the process, not necessarily the end result.  Some children may fear losing their parent’s love or pride if they don’t hit a home run or get an “A” on a paper, even if their effort has been there.  It is not the home run or the “A” but if your child has given their best that deserves the praise.  When a parent speaks to effort, anyone can be encouraged.  Emphasizing effort and improvement, results in a child who believes that giving his or her best is success.  If children give their best, most likely, confidence and success will follow.

4.  Teach your child self-love

  • Pure and simple, self-love is the basis of self-confidence.  Children who are loved and love themselves take more risks, try new things, initiate relationships, and develop confidence. Giving your child lots of hugs, kisses and time alone is a good start for this.  You also need to celebrate your child’s accomplishments with specifics.  Think before you speak.  Even small children are sensitive to your emotions, positive or negative.  Concentrate on the behavior.  Dealing with a bad behavior by screaming at the child will not make the behavior any better but can erode self-confidence.  Take a 10-second time out and then speak.
  • Help your child see his strengths.  Point out the “specialness” of your child.  Do not allow yourself or your child to compare himself or herself to others.   Discourage friendships that erode your child’s self-esteem.  Do not allow siblings to build themselves up at the expense of their sister or brother.  Use the dinner table to focus on successes of your child, and the talents that he or she has.  This is a great dinner conversation!

5.  Encourage competence

  • There is nothing more exciting and gratifying than accepting and meeting a challenge.  How great it is after weeks of stumbling and falling when your baby finally walks. There is such a look of pride even in a 15 month old’s eyes as he or she toddles across the floor. There is such excitement the first time a child truly connects a printed word in a book and “reads” it.  These accomplishments teach a child that he or she is capable and will result in him or her tackling new challenges rather than backing away.  Encourage challenges.  Even when a child fails, the fact the challenge was embraced will foster confidence.  Encourage challenges that are both in your child’s comfort zone and out.  When children succeed in areas that are in their comfort zone, it gives them confidence to try challenges outside of their comfort zone.

6.  Foster interests

  • It is important that a child have opportunities to explore many areas of possible interest.  A parent should honor their child’s interests rather than their own or those they think their child should have.  Having the opportunity to discover what a child is good at and having the resources to develop that talent is the basis for self-esteem.  In whatever your child is interested in, do not overemphasize perfection.  Emphasize the joy of working toward a goal.
  • Do not “pigeon hole” your child.   Children should be able to experience many things!  A child that has tried only one sport, or dance, or musical instrument may miss what his or her true passion is!  A person who has passion is confident!  Let your child find his or niche!
First 6 steps of parenting a child to confidence.  Really not that difficult, not rocket science, just basically loving and respecting your child for who he is, providing a secure home, and encouraging your child’s process in a challenge, not just the end results.  A few more tips tomorrow!  Love your child for who he is today.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


We need Dad’s to be involved in parenting….encourage it!

Brad  as “King for a day!”  He has always been a “hands on” Dad!

Dads have a special role in their kids’ lives.  I believe that my parenting would have been incomplete without Brad, but I could have very easily discouraged his involvement very early on.  I was a “gatekeeper” Mom; I needed and wanted him to be involved, but had a difficult time actually “letting go”  of any of the parenting.  I hovered and gave “suggestions” on the best way to hold the baby, how to bathe the baby, kind of the “my way or the highway” approach.   Soon I realized that neither of us were the experts and a parenting partnership was better for me, him, and our baby!  We were “in this” together!

Dads sometimes need a bit of encouragement to become confident in their role as a Dad and especially in their baby care skills .  Moms are often responsible for much of the “baby duty” those first few weeks, and sometimes even have a difficult time allowing Dad to own his role.  Studies show us that babies respond to Dads differently than Moms.  Most babies become more alert and active when Dad engages them!  Let’s face it, Dads usually interact with a bit more energy and fun!  Routine and consistency are important for children, but they also need a balance between Mom and Dad.   Embrace parenting as a partnership.  Everyone will benefit…

Ways to Help New Dads Get Involved

1.  Many Dads want to be more involved than their fathers were. 

Moms can help by encouraging time with other families that have involved Dads.  Seeing other fathers that are breaking the old stereotypes will encourage them to do the same.  Talk with other Moms and Dads that have a  parenting philosophy that you like or admire.  Surround yourself with like-minded parents and Dads that like to participate in the care of their children.  Soon you will see that his conversation with other Dads will include the color and consistency of what is in a diaper and the best technique in swaddling, and he will actually be interested in it…who would have thought!

2.  Help Dad get involved early on.

The sooner a Dad gets involved with his baby, the more likely that he will stay connected over the long term.  Be sure to keep everything related to the baby a partnership.  Have Dad change diapers, read to the baby, feed or bring you the baby for nursing, bathe and play his way with the baby.  Breast fed babies may have more time with Mom in the very beginning, but there are many ways that Dad can still participate in caring for his baby.  Skin to skin contact is important for babies—that means Mom’s skin and Dad’s skin!  Encourage Dad to hold his newborn shirtless and comfort just like Mom!  This builds bonding between Dad and baby.  Few Moms can swaddle a baby as securely as a Dad, and Dads can walk and comfort the baby after Mom has nursed–buy a sling that is Dad friendly! Don’t let Dads wait until baby is older to begin his parenting, babies need him from moment one!

3.  Allow Dad to be involved. 

Some dads want to be VERY involved, but Moms have a difficult time letting go.   Studies show us that children with Dads who care for them beginning in infancy, end up more secure in life.  Do not tell Dad how to do everything.  If Dad does something differently, that is not wrong.  If Dad is criticized, he will back off the parenting duties and his confidence will decrease.  Fathers parent differently.  Dads often let children play more physically and take more chances.  This is different from Moms, but good for children and their developing understanding of the world.  Let Dad take one night or weekend day alone, this is good for you, Dad and your baby.  Encourage Dad to own one parenting chore like bathing,  bathing is a task that allows great interaction and is needed from the first moments of parenthood.  Allow Dad to figure out his own parenting pattern and not totally depend on Mom.  Be careful not to slip into a gatekeeper role as I did.  Moms and Dads both need alone time with baby because this allows Mom and Dad to develop their own parenting style and confidence.  Remember, Dad is not a babysitter, he is a parenting partner!

4.  Praise Dad’s efforts. 

We all like praise and fathers really need more of it when caring for their new baby.  Since stereotypes are changing, one way to make sure that Dads are embracing true involvement is for Dads to feel in control and confident.  This confidence develops when Moms praise him for what he does well rather than criticize him for what is done differently from Mom or unsuccessfully.  Offer advice, but approach it as a team.  “This is what has worked for me, try it and see if it does for you.”  Remember success breeds success.  The first time Dad quiets his crying baby,  that accomplishment will result in him being more comfortable in quieting the baby the next time!  I quickly learned that Brad’s confident, firm hold was an immediate fix for our second child’s fussy period in the early evening…he had the knack for calming her!

5.  Update Dad

When Moms are on maternity leave or have chosen to not work outside the home,  many Dads feel disconnected while at work.  Taking a moment to send a picture when your baby smiles or to update Dad on a developmental milestones or activities during the day keeps him connected.

6.  Talk together about your parenting goals.  

We all have hopes for our children and our family environment.  Talk about them together…communication about parenting as a team results in you both being on the same page.

  • What are your hopes for your family?
  • How do you see your roles as parents?
  • What kind of parents would you like to be?
  • How would each of  you like it to be handled when there is a disagreement about a parenting issue?
  • How can you best support each other as parents?

7.  Talk with other families who share your parenting beliefs. 

Sharing parenting experiences with other parents who are parenting as a team really encourages both Mom and Dad.  One of the best parenting tips I can give, is to surround yourself with like-minded parents.  It is much easier to believe in your parenting philosophy when you have other parents that support you.

8.  Put your partner first.

Try to remember that your relationship with your partner will be there after your child is grown.  By loving each other, you are giving your child an important gift—a stable base.  Putting your partner first is wise, and makes your parenting relationship stronger.  Relationships can become stronger even with the pressures of parenthood if you keep each other first.

9.  Keep your sense of humor.

Remember, you are in this together.  As you pass each other in the night, keep a tally on whose turn it is to change the poopy diaper, clean up the spit up, or collapse in exhaustion together in a heap on the couch, laughter at the situation and with each other fixes all kinds of stress.

Becoming a parent is a huge change for both Moms and Dads.  Each parent needs support from the other.  Giving and taking, encouraging, praising and simply loving each other will make both your relationship strong, and your baby happy and successful in the future. Working together is the key to happy families, fulfilled parents, and secure relationships.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Becoming a Dad can bring some doubt and fear

Men and women are different….wow, that tidbit of information is nothing new, right?  However, sometimes we need to say this over and over again so we can understand why men and women respond so differently to the same situation.  Moms and Dads are different, we respond differently to the same parenting situation, we have different fears, different challenges, and actually different parenting roles to some extent.  I don’t want to start the whole conversation regarding men’s and women’s roles in society, their value, or their equality.  I do want to start the conversation regarding the importance of both Moms and Dads in raising children, and the unique feelings and fears that Dads often experience.

New Moms and Dads often have fears about their new role, often these fears overlap, but there are a few fears that Dads own…many we Moms never know about!   Here are some of the most common fears that new Dads have…I am sure there are more, because Dads often don’t talk about fear…does that surprise you??

1.  Security and Financial Fears

Will I be able to protect and provide for my family?  Even though we think that we have “progressed”  well beyond putting  the financial  responsibility solely on Dad, this fear seems to be at the top of the list of many new Dads.  When asked, many new Dads actually overestimate the financial costs of a new baby.  Even when parents  make the decision together to have Mom quit working outside of the home, even temporarily, Dads tend to shoulder the burden of this worry more than Moms.

What can a Mom do to help?

The biggest help a Mom can provide is actually opening the conversation about this fear.  Talk about your finances, point out ways you are saving money together, make a financial plan for the time you are not working outside the home and most importantly, tell Dad how much you appreciate his role in giving your family security.  A little bit of  appreciation goes a long way.

2.  Mortality fears

Let’s be honest, most men are more risk takers than women.  Guys get a thrill from conquering a risk, often physical risks.  Many times  Dads have never ever thought of their own mortality until they hold that little newborn in their arms.  Suddenly, the thought that something could happen to him may creep into his mind for the first time!  This may challenge his behavior and choices…which can change in part their own self definition as he chooses to become a Dad.

What can Mom do to help?

Remember that Dads need time to maintain relationships with other men and time to continue some of his pre-Dad activities.  Just as a Mom need time to “refill” her pitcher, and maintain her identity, a Dad does too.  Encourage Dad to maintain some of those outside activities he enjoys.   However, if you see him struggling to balance fatherhood responsibilities and his “guy” activities…open the conversation.  Sometimes the fear of losing some of his identity, or not feeling he has a role with his new baby, will push a Dad into spending too much time away from home and increase his need to participate in activities where he tries to deny those thoughts of his actual mortality.

3.  Fear about the health of Mom or his child

Sometimes the birth of a child can trigger some real anxiety about Mom’s health or the baby’s health.  Often I will hear from Moms that Dad has suddenly become a worrier.  The experience of a traumatic delivery, being unprepared for the experience of labor and delivery, or having an infant with some initial health problems will increase the risk of a new Dad’s tendency to worry or become anxious.   The thought that something could be wrong with Mom or the baby can bring a new level of anxiety to light for a new Dad.

What can a Mom do to help?

Help Dad see that you are recovering from labor and delivery.  Talk openly and honestly about how you feel, and don’t forget to ask Dad how he feels.  Even though Moms experience the physical part of labor and delivery, Dads have an intense emotional experience.   Talk about the experience together.   Encourage Dad to come to the doctor for your postpartum exam and your baby’s doctor’s appointments.    Learn all about the normal growth and development of your child together and keep him “in the loop” regarding child care and development.

4.  Fears about his relationship with the baby

Because of who we are and our role, Moms become consumed very quickly in the care of her new baby.  Often a new Dad will fear not being included in that special relationship between Mom and baby.  In many homes, a Mom often becomes the “gatekeeper” and actually determines when Dad can be involved with the baby.  Moms must allow Dad to take part in the care of their baby, or Dads will become distant from Mom and the baby.  As a Mom, you must trust Dad with the care of your child.

What can Mom do to help?

Include Dad in the parenting of your baby.  Let Dad in….allow him to “own” being a Dad.  Encourage him to care for your baby, don’t criticize his attempts or treat him like a babysitter.  Point out his successes in comforting the baby, changing diapers, or bathing.  Build his confidence in being a Dad.  Enjoy watching him develop his role as a Dad, and the difference in the way he interacts with your baby compared to you.  A child needs both!  In actuality, marriages will become stronger if you work as co-captains on the parenting team.

5.  Fear of never having sex again

Men often think that sex will never occur again.  (Who can blame them?!)  Dad also misses time with you.  Sex is usually the farthest thing from a new Mom’s mind, but it is not too far from a new Dad’s thoughts.  Physical connection is so important to a man, and not having that connection brings a real feeling of loss.

How can mom help?

Given time and patience, Moms will want to have sex again as much as a Dad will.  Encourage Dad to do things that will make you feel like more than a Mom.  Acknowledge that you know that there has been a decrease in time that you have spent with Dad. Talk about your feelings regarding “touch time” and sex.  Realize that you both have needs.  Studies show that new Moms that have physical contact with their partners, not necessarily sex but “touch time”, feel better and have less anxiety and stress.  Dads do too!  Soon, most Dads figure out that participating in caring for the baby, and helping out in the house often results in you feeling less overwhelmed and more open to physical touch.  My husband learned that using the vacuum  really benefited him! 🙂  Take the time to concentrate on him for a few minutes each day.  If you concentrate on him, he will also concentrate on you!  You both will feel better, and your relationship will be stronger.   

6.  Fear of not being a good father.

New Dads are usually less confident about caring for their new baby than Moms.  Most new Dads do not get any practice before their new baby is born.  Many have questions about how they will react to the added pressures and what a good Dad really is.  Dads have the same desire as Moms…to be the best parent they can and raise a healthy, happy, confident, successful child; but many times Dads question what their role exactly is in doing this.

What can Mom do to help?

Allow Dad some alone time with the baby.  The more time he spends with his baby, the more comfortable he will become.  Talk to him about what dreams he has as a father.  How does he define a “good dad”?  Open up conversations about what values and wisdom he wants to impart to your baby.  Talk about other parents, what do you both like about other Moms and Dads…what do you not like?  Tell him that you are confident in him, that he will be everything your child needs in a Dad.  Give Dad one task right away that he can own and that you do not hover around.  Praise his efforts with the  baby and do not treat him like a babysitter.

So Moms, we don’t have the corner on the market regarding fears of becoming a parent.   Dads often don’t share feelings verbally (another tidbit of information that probably isn’t earth shattering!)…and since Dads don’t share verbally, some of their fear is expressed nonverbally in behavior changes.  Support Dad in any way you can, because your baby needs what both you and Dad have to offer.  Give Dad a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, and embrace with him the challenges and fears that all parents experience as they  look into the eyes of their child knowing that this little being will bring incredible joy, worry, work, and inexplicable love.

More about Dads to come!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


Packing tips for traveling with kids…having what you need but keeping it simple.

Vacation season is here! With kids, gone are the days when you can throw a few things in a suitcase and go!  There is a bit more to pack with kids…it seems like you will need everything!  Making a packing list will help.  I often would start a packing list several weeks in advance and as I thought of things we would need, I would add it to the list.  Packing can feel overwhelming when you are planning for kids.  Just remember, you can usually always wash at your destination if necessary and unless you are going to the outback, there are stores!  Don’t try to think of every scenario and try to pack for it!  Once you have a list that works for you, save it on your computer for the future!  Try and keep it simple!

Packing Tips:

  • Plan for one outfit a day per person.  Think about mixing and matching and bringing a couple extra tops.
  • Think layers…be sure you always have something warm…weather is temperamental and restaurants are cool.
  • Plan for at least 3 pairs of PJs per child.  You will always have accidents and need at least one extra pair until you can wash.
  • Pack total outfits in large freezer type zip lock bags.  Top, bottom, undershirt, and socks all together.  This makes it easy to find each outfit and helps keep things organized.  You can grab a zip lock bag and throw it in your diaper bag when you are on the run and know you have everything you need for a quick change.
  • Extra shoes.
  • Sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses.
  • Plan a diaper an hour for transit and about 5 to 6 diapers a day.  Remember, there are Walmart Stores and Target Stores everywhere…don’t bring things that are easier bought at your destination.  Think about having Amazon or Target ship your diapers to your destination when taking a long trip.  www.jetsetbabies.com or www.babytravelite.com are another great way to ship baby gear ahead!
  • Bring several receiving type blankets and a larger blanket for your baby to lie on and stretch.
  • Diaper rash ointment, acetaminophen, thermometer, small containers of shampoo and lotion.  You never want to be out looking for an open pharmacy at night!
  • Keep a list with emergency numbers in your bag.  Include your doctor’s phone number and local pharmacy number.
  • Pack a night-light.   It is nice to have a little light in a strange room!
  • Baby Monitor.
  • Child proofing kit.  This would include twist ties to tie up cords, duct tape to tape over outlets, and antibacterial wipes to wipe down TV remotes and phones.  Blue painters tape is a great way to tape things up, cover outlets etc. and kids LOVE to play with it too.  Easy to remove from anything also!
  • Straw cups, pacifiers, bottles, and enough baby food for transit and to get you started at your destination.
  • If traveling by car and you will be spending a night on the road, pack a separate bag for the hotel.  Only pack what you will need for the one night on your way to your destination.  This is much easier than carrying all of the luggage in for a one night stay!

Pack a small backpack with essentials that are within easy reach in the car or plane:

  • A change of clothing for you and your child.
  • Extra zip lock bags.  (Never can have too many!)
  • A diaper an hour and wipes.  (Never can have too many wipes!  They are NOT for just diaper changes!)
  • Pack an extra “portable” bag with a single diaper, diaper cream, and small package of wipes.  You can take this small bag into the restroom without bringing the whole diaper bag or backpack.
  • Fold up potty seat for a toddler. Post it notes to cover the electronic eye on self flushing toilets…keeps the toilet from flushing and scaring your toddler!
  • Extra “lovey”…always have an extra!
  • Two straw cups (one to be dirty one to be clean), snack cup, wipeable bib, portable snacks, small fork and spoon, any other necessary restaurant item.
  • If you are formula feeding, bring powdered formula.  Make up a couple of bottles with the powdered formula so only water needs to be added.
  • Baby food for use that day.
  • Zip lock with thermometer, travel sized acetaminophen, ibuprofen, band aids, Benadryl, nasal saline drops, and any other medications your child or you are taking.
  • A mix of new and old toys…plan for an activity per hour at least.  A sample “fun bag” will be posted later.

So, pack smart and start early.  Make a list and check it twice, but remember, the only real essentials are items that cannot be bought at your destination…so relax, if you forget something, thank goodness for Target and Walmart….I know you can find either at your destination!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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