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

What should be in your child’s playroom?

The Holiday Season is here and the shopping has begun!  I was in Target this past weekend, the toy choices are overwhelming and expensive!  What are the best toys for your child?  Which toys will be fun and valuable for your child’s development? It is difficult to decide what toys are the best choice!

I can remember feeling like toys in our house multiplied every night. SURELY we didn’t have THAT many stuffed animals yesterday! Too many toys results in a child who doesn’t play with anything well, they become overwhelmed with the number of toys. Parents also can fall into the trap of buying the newest flashiest toy on the market. We all love our kids, so why wouldn’t we stand in line to buy the “most popular” toy of the season? Many of these flashy toys encourage a child to play passively, using no imagination or creativity. Toys should allow a child to play in several different ways. A child should be able to decide how to play with a toy, the toy should not determine how a child plays. Play is a child’s work, it is through play that a child learns how the world works. As you make that holiday wish list, here are what I think every child needs in his playroom. You might be surprised!

  1. Blocks and construction type toys

Wooden blocks, cardboard bricks, Legos, and magnetic tiles are all great choices. Depending on your child’s age, you will see children build towers, knock towers over, sort blocks by color, create designs, make roads for cars and tracks for trains and more.

  1. Art supplies

Creative juices start flowing when a child has a blank piece of paper, crayons, paints, markers, stickers, scissors and any other item you can find in the craft aisle to help with their masterpiece. Blank paper rather than coloring books will provide more encouragement for a child to create. Children age 2 and older love to create on an easel which allows for larger muscle movement which makes drawing and painting easier.

  1. Books….lots of them!

Provide books in bins so children can see the front of them.  The front of the book will interest a child more than the words on the spine of the book on a shelf. Provide books that have flaps, pop ups, and colorful pictures. A corner with a small chair or big floor pillow encourages reading.

  1. Play kitchen supplies and other child sized house hold items like keys, phones, brooms, rakes etc.

If space allows, a play kitchen is a great investment. Play food, dishes and utensils and other child sized household items encourages great imaginative play and cooperative play with others.

  1. Doll stroller or shopping cart

All children like to push dolls, stuffed animals, and other toys around.  Toddlers and preschoolers are “gatherers” and a doll stroller or shopping cart provides a way for them to collect “treasures” on walks outside or around your home.

  1. Dress up clothes

Role play is a great way to encourage imagination and development of social skills and empathy.  Keep those Halloween costumes out all year in an easily accessible dress up box.

  1. Puzzles

Puzzles help a child learn to problem solve, develop patience, practice persistence, and develop spatial awareness.

  1. Medical kit

Play helps a child work through scary or anxiety producing experiences.  All children like to give Teddy or Baby a check up and/or shot after a visit to the doctor.

  1. Musical instruments

Children love to create music.  Drums, xylophones, tambourines, shakers all help develop rhythm and a love of music. Children exposed to music and rhythm often are more successful in Math!

  1. Tools and play household items like a broom, vacuum, lawn mower etc.

Boys and girls love to hammer and build with “tools”. Allow your child to build. This is the basis of STEM education. Children also love to take on the roles they see at home, let them participate in chores and pretend with toys that look like Mom and Dad’s tools. A Swiffer or dust cloth is fun too!

  1. Tent or play house

Children love small places to hide, read, play quietly or play house, school, or camping. This play house or tent could be as simple as a large box or a blanket thrown over a card table.

  1. Dolls/stuffed animals

Playing with dolls or stuffed animals fosters empathy development. Pretend role play of Mommy and Daddy is very important.

  1. Balls

Throwing, catching, kicking are all developmental milestones.  Simple games with balls introduces cooperative play, taking turns and helps with fine and gross motor development.

  1. Shape sorter

This is a basic toy that will grow with your child.  Young toddlers will fill and dump, older toddlers will sort by shape and color, and often children will use it to gather other items. Another great sorting tool is your kitchen muffin tins! Have your child sort different cereals, different colored pompons, or any other item!

  1. Stacking cups

This less than $10.00 toy is a bargain!  This will last a child from 6 months through preschool.  Children bang them, stack them, pour and dump water and sand, “drink” from them and learn size and volume with them!

  1. Clay/Play-dough

Children will love to squish, roll, and create with clay. The use of hands to roll and shape creations develops fine motors skills used for writing.

  1. Pedal powered ride on toy

Learning to pedal is a developmental milestone for 2 to 3 year olds. Ride on toys get children needed outdoor time and exercise along with development of coordination.

  1. Cars, trucks, and or train

Children love toys that move. Purchase cars, trucks, and trains that are easy to handle and run on “kid power”.

  1. Farm or other toy with animals

Farm animals, dinosaurs, and/or zoo animals are a great way for children to learn about animals, habitats, and encourages imaginative play.  Dinosaurs are often a favorite too!

  1. Family games

Even preschooler can participate in family games. Think Candyland! (not my favorite, but there are many choices out there!) Board games help a child develop skills in handling winning  and losing, taking turns, and cooperative play. Board games are much more valuable than video games which do not provide as much person to person interaction.

And yes, sometimes just a large box or two, plastic containers or a few laundry baskets will provide hours of entertainment and imaginative play for your child! Toys do not need to be expensive!  Remember that a toy is only valuable if your child plays with it! Quality is more important than quantity of toys.  Often the best toys don’t come with batteries. And most important, allow your child to play freely…a child who plays well is learning!

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


Sleep like a baby…really?

Establishing a calming routine before bed is important!

When I brought our oldest Corri home from the hospital, I thought I knew about the sleep patterns of infants.  After all, I had the degrees to prove that I was an “educated” Mom!  The truth is, nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep that new parents usually experience.  Quickly my plans to reorganize my closets during Corri’s long daytime naps (don’t newborns sleep all the time?) went by the way side.  Yes, newborns DO sleep a lot…just in very short intervals.  Corri never slept long enough for any reorganization of closets, and when she did sleep I was too tired to reorganize.  Oh, the lessons of a new parent!

Sleep is VERY important for our babies, and for you!  There are some sleep tips for new parents that will help your baby “learn” to sleep and establish good patterns for the future.  I firmly believe that our children are largely sleep deprived because of our busy schedules.  Good sleep is essential for healthy children, clear through the teen years!  Many of the healthy sleep habits you establish with your young children will result in healthy sleep habits for a lifetime.

The first 3 months of a baby’s life there is no real routine.  Anything that you read that tells you that you can establish or “force” routine at this age is mistaken.  I do not think that baby  sleep training books are valuable at this age, and they can really be destructive to your baby’s establishment of good sleep habits.  Your job as a parent during the first year is to help your baby realize that the world is a great place!  When your baby cries, you need to respond.  Baby will quickly learn to trust you and feel loved.  You cannot spoil a newborn!  You CAN spoil an older child, but that discussion is for another day!

Newborn sleep patterns are different from adults.  They have sleep cycles that are much shorter than ours, and have longer patterns of active sleep rather than deep sleep, especially in the first 3 months.  Parents often complain that their infant will “cat nap” .  This is a fairly normal pattern during the first 3 months of life.  Very young infants do not know how to self soothe either.  Those skills develop after the first 3 months also.  Here are a few tips that will help establish good sleep habits for the future.  Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel, life will become easier after the first few months.

1.  Know your baby’s sleep cues…do not let your baby become over tired.

Most parents in the beginning have a bit of a difficult time learning sleep cues.  Newborn babies should not be up longer than an hour and a half to two hours maximum.  If your baby becomes overly tired, it is much more difficult for your baby to sleep!  Look for your baby to rub at his or her eyes, begin to blank stare and not engage, yawn, and fuss.  When you see some cues, take a look at the length of time your baby has been awake.  The next time your baby is awake, start the process of putting him or her down for a nap 15 minutes earlier.  This way you never miss the window of opportunity, an overstimulated baby does not sleep well.  You often will feel like all you have time for is a feeding, a diaper change, a small amount of interaction and then your baby is ready to sleep again!

2.  Swaddle your baby.

Newborns until the end of the 4th month have a reflex that causes them to startle.  You often will see your baby twitch, grimace, have a sweet sleep grin and jump during the early active sleep pattern.  The twitching and jumping or moro reflex as it is called, will wake your baby.  If you swaddle using a light blanket or a swaddle sleep sack, your baby will not wake with a startle as often and will feel more secure.   Many moms and dads will tell me their baby does not like the swaddle.  I encourage you to try it again.  Try swaddling your baby before a nursing or feeding, or before you begin to rock your child to calm.  Most of the time babies will relax into the swaddle and love it!  They look like a cute baby burrito!

3.  Try white noise.

Babies heard white noise inside mom’s womb during the entire pregnancy.  This sound is very calming to a newborn.  My 2nd daughter loved the sound of a blow dryer.  She was a fussy baby, and quickly my blow dryer became part of the decor of my family room.  Now, there are white noise machines, white noise phone apps, and white noise CDs that parents swear by, a much better look than the blow dryer!  White noise can be part of a “switch” that helps soothe a fussy baby.  You might even try getting your face down by your baby’s ear and “shsh shsh shsh”, which will work too.

4.  Provide day and night/ light rhythm. 

Many newborns get their days and nights mixed up.  There is nothing worse than an infant that sleeps well during the day and is up all night!  Moms often notice that babies before birth are more active at night too!  To help your baby learn the day and night pattern, keep the daytime hours light with normal noise patterns in your home.  Light on our eyes helps to cue our bodies to when it is time to be awake and when it is time to be asleep.  That is part of the reason we feel so sleepy during the gloom of dark winter days!  Stand in front of a window with your baby and expose your baby to natural light.  Do not darken the rooms for your baby to nap during the day and keep regular noise in the house.  No tip toeing!  In the evening, start to dim lights and keep things calm and quiet about an hour before “bedtime”.  Then with every nighttime feeding keep the room dark, do not change the diaper unless it is dirty, and do not interact.  Just feed your baby and put back to bed.  Eventually your baby will learn the difference between day and night and sleep more soundly and longer during the night hours.  This pattern of day and night will help older children and adults fall to sleep more easily too!

5.  Wake your baby to eat during the day.

Do not let your baby sleep longer than 2 hours during the day.  Wake your baby to eat, and unless your doctor advises you differently, never wake a sleeping baby at night!  You want your baby to receive most of their nutrition during the waking hours, and less at night.

6.  Move with your baby!

Movement will calm a baby to sleep.  Rocking, swinging, and wearing your baby will all help lull your little one into a deep sleep pattern.  Rocking to sleep is fine in the early months.  Many parents have a hard time transitioning from the swing or arms to bed without the baby waking.  Do the limp arm test!  Remember that babies have a very active sleep pattern before they move into a deep sleep.  If you try to transfer when your little one is still grimacing, sleep grinning, or you see rapid eye movement under closed eye lids, most likely your baby will wake quickly.   Rock or provide movement until your baby has transitioned from the active sleep pattern to a deep sleep.  You will be able to pick up your baby’s arm and feel that it is limp.  When you see that, then it is much easier to place your baby in the crib and your baby stay asleep.

7.  Use a pacifier.

Babies need to suck many times to sleep soundly.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier at sleep as a deterrent to SIDS.  Sucking calms a baby.  A baby that tends to become over stimulated easily often needs more suck time.  I am a big believer in the pacifier or a thumb or finger sucker resulting in a calm baby.  We can worry about the habit later!

8.  Establish a sleep routine.

The earlier your baby connects routine with sleep the better.  Do the same thing every time you put your baby to bed and quickly your child will connect those activities with sleep.  This pattern will develop good sleep patterns all the way to adulthood!  So, plan the feeding, bathing, massage, rocking, singing, reading pattern that works for you!  Keep the routine simple and repeatable.  The bedtime or nap time routine should not be longer than about 20 minutes.  You can establish a bedtime for your baby even though you know you will be up again!  Just treat every feeding after “bedtime” as a night-time feeding.  Children in general are wired early to bed early to rise!  Have an early bedtime for a good sleeper and for you to have an evening of “adult time”.

9.  Do not let your baby “cry it out” until 6 months.

The first 6 months parents need to respond to a crying baby at night.  After 6 months, most babies are developmentally ready to sleep a stretch through the night. When you are emotionally ready and after your baby is at least 6 months old, you can do the “baby shuffle” and check on your baby every 5 to 10 minutes without picking your baby up.  Comfort your baby with a “shh” go to sleep, a pat and then leave.  The first night you may be “shuffling” in and out of the nursery for an hour or more. The 2nd night will be shorter and usually by the 3rd or 4th night your baby will comfort to sleep on his or her own.  You must be consistent and not give in.  Soon you will put a drowsy baby to bed and your baby will be able to fall asleep without your assistance!

10.  Even with doing all the “right things” babies have sleep disturbances.

Children will have periods of sleep disturbances through all developmental stages.  With each new skill a baby learns, example rolling over, there will often be a sleep pattern disturbance.  Babies like to practice at night!  There is also teething, separation anxiety, illness….many reasons you will see disturbances even when you are doing all the right things in establishing good sleep patterns.  Always go back to the basics each time.  Good sleep is essential! Teaching healthy sleep patterns is a huge gift to your child, and you!

Soon you will be getting longer stretches of sleep….until those darn teen years creep up and you find yourself waiting up for your child!  That is another issue another day!  :)

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


I love these sleep resources:

The No-Cry Sleep Solution 

Elizabeth Pantley

The Happiest Baby on the Block

Dr. Harvey Karp

Sweet Dreams

Paul M Fleiss, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.P

Joyful parenting….be mindful.

  • Parenting is a gift….there is not doubt about it.  
  • It is a difficult job, no doubt about it.
  • Days can feel very long and mundane no doubt about it.
  • Society tells us we should be tired, we should be less happy raising children than our childless counter parts.
  • Studies show us that stressed unhappy parents raise children who are less happy and satisfied with life.  
  • Remember that we cannot give our children that which we do not have.  If we are not happy/joyful, we cannot give that happiness or joy to our children.

So how can we enjoy this wild ride of parenting and raise children in a home that is happy and joyful?  How can we look at our day to day life and realize that yes, the days may be long; but the years really are very short. I often remind parents, there are only 936 weekends from birth to age 18! Wow!

I have 6 simple tips that I believe will help you navigate these 936 weeks between birth and age 18 (believe me you will parent well beyond age 18!) with grace and joy. 

  1.  Balance your life.

Each day plan how you will achieve 4 goals. 

One goal for yourself  

What can you do for yourself today?  How can you fill your pitcher? An empty pitcher cannot give!  What fills you up? Prayer? Exercise? Long bath? Journal? Hobby? Chatting with friends? Reading?  Take 20 minutes a day to fill yourself. Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

One goal for your husband/significant other

We often lose connection with the most important person in our life during the child rearing years. We must concentrate on maintaining that relationship. What small act can you do each day to remind this person that you love them. A quick love note? Sticky note on the mirror? Special dinner? Some one on one time? A simple thank you?  Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

One goal for your home

When our homes are in disarray, we often feel out of control. Plan one short task a day to keep your home in control.  This can be wiping out the bathroom sinks, mopping a floor, dusting one room, cleaning out one drawer, changing your sheets…one 20 minute task each day. Do NOT try to clean your whole house in a day….one simple task. Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

One goal for your children

I know, you do things for your child every single moment of the day! But, if you plan something fun for each day this brings some joy. Plan one thing to do that is simply fun.  The park? Library? A craft? Bake some cookies? Reading an extra story at bedtime? ….one simple activity.  Actually set a goal for this and a plan!

2. Ignore behaviors that are irritating…react unemotionally with your discipline.

  • Parents are trying to live up to standards that are often simply unattainable. We cannot provide endless attention and endless activities for our children. Children learn that behaviors such as whining, complaining, tantrums often result in more attention from Mom and Dad and even may result in more screen time or snacks as exhausted parents try to buy a little quiet. Remember, attention is attention to a child.  Even negative attention with yelling or arguing is attention. I often tell parents that paying attention to whining or annoying behavior is like scratching a bug bite, it increases the itch!   The more you pay attention to annoying behavior like whining….the more your child does it!
  • Don’t negotiate.  Children should have some input into decisions but at the end of the day you make the decisions. Toddlers and preschoolers need a simple explanation…not a dissertation. Teens will need a bit more discussion….but in the end the decision is yours. Once you begin the negotiation process, children think everything is up for debate. Give choices that are real and control over things children should have control over.
  • Give your child grace…forgive and forget. Let go….. Overlook small misbehaviors and pick your battles. Always end with a hug after discipline.

3. Do the unexpected

  • Break the rules……be a little silly. Stay in your PJs one whole day, have milk shakes for dinner, say yes a little more, celebrate everything! Try to learn from your child…learn to live in the moment.  When they are playing they are not thinking about what is happening next or what happened yesterday. They are enjoying right down…we are at risk of missing joy when we are constantly in a rush.
  • Give yourself grace…sometimes doing the unexpected is simply easier, and more fun. If doing the unexpected results in something not being accomplished on your list, give yourself grace.  Remember the laundry basket is never empty.

4. Play more

  • What is one activity or part of your day that you wish could be more fun or easier?  What can you do to make it more fun?  Work play into your day and enjoy it! Don’t think of the mess or the things on your list you are not doing. Remember to live in the moment and play is a child’s work!

5. Have less family screen time, put the phone away.

  • Screen time, especially social media, can cause us to concentrate on it and detach us from the people who are with us in the moment. Less minutes on screens results in more moments “in the moment” with family and friends.
  • Ask yourself what would happen if you were inaccessible for a period of time. Put down the phone.

6. Develop family traditions and rituals

  • Tradition is the glue to your family. Traditions create fun and supports your family morals and values. Daily rituals and traditions bring stability to your child and family. 


Joyful parenting is a mindset…

  • it is staying balanced, 
  • it is about playing, being silly and ignoring behavior that is simply irritating,
  •  it is about being mindful…keeping your mind in the moment and not on what is next or comparisons to others, 
  • it is about keeping your screen time to a minimum and concentrating on your husband, your child, and the life you have now,
  • it is about letting your child be a child and not worrying about over scheduling and competitive parenting,
  • it is about building a family with tradition and value,
  • It is about giving yourself, your spouse and yes your child grace….
  • Grace goes a long way in bringing peace and joy to you and your family.  Remember….936 weekends.

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 always do that!” Why Family Tradition is Important!

Our “traditional” Christmas tree.  A little more “perfectly” decorated than years past….there are ornaments even on the bottom of the tree now! 

If we are smart we listen to our children when they say “That is how we always do it!” or “That is what we always do!” even when we have only done it that way one other time.  Your child is not just talking about the good time he had, but the fact that it meant something to him and he thinks to you too.  One of my favorite quotes is from the book The Little Prince by  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “We live not by things, but the meaning of things.”  It is not what you do or eat that is important, it is the meaning and feeling that comes with what you are doing that is so important to your child.

There are 3 important “anchors” in a family, our family values, our family rules, and our family rituals and traditions.  If we don’t take time to develop each of these….we usually will run on a “default” mode of doing what is easy at the time.  Being intentional as a family is very important.

Values… what is most important to your family.  Values are what you want to pass to your children.  For some families these values may center around religion, or the value of education, or the value of respect and kindness, or the value of taking care of our earth. In order for a value to become a part of  your child there must be “rules, rituals and traditions” that follow these values.  If religion is a value, your family might attend church together, participate in family prayer, and become involved in activities which reflect your beliefs. If education is a value, your family might read together, limit screen time and have rules regarding homework and effort in school. If kindness and respect are values, your family may have rules about conflict resolution, sharing,  guidelines on the words that are spoken, and even family “missions” of kindness in the community.

Traditions and rituals are planned or intentional.  These are family activities that have a purpose or meaning behind them and support your family values. Some are simply daily rituals, like bedtime routines and family dinners.  Some are weekly rituals like Friday pizza nights or movie nights.  Some occur with the season or with family milestones like the traditions of the holidays or 1st day of school pictures and birthdays.  Some traditions are simply fun. These daily, weekly, and seasonal rituals and traditions tell your child what is important to your family.  Some you plan to start…some happen accidentally and then you plan to repeat!

Creating your own special rituals and traditions now and repeating them throughout your child’s life will help your child feel secure, will provide stability, and a sense of pride and belonging to your family. Even during a family crises, the fact that a bedtime ritual or a Christmas celebration looks somewhat the same brings a sense of security and stability to a child and to you as a parent!

Four reasons tradition is important to a family:

1.  Traditions help make life predictable.  Rituals that are followed daily, weekly, and yearly such as family dinners, nightly stories, spring picnics, holiday songs etc. helps make children feel secure.  Their world is often unpredictable—keeping things predictable at home gives security.

2.  Traditions give families a time to connect.  Life is busy and sometimes this can give families a feeling of disconnect. Family meals, stories, game nights etc. help us reconnect and start talking.  Soon we know what is going on in our children’s lives.  We know when there is exciting news, when there is difficulty, and when a child is happy or stressed. Traditions will also just bring simple fun….who doesn’t need a little of that!

3.  Family traditions teach children family values.  Service work, religious ceremonies, concern for the environment and many other values can be established through family traditions and rituals.  These are values that when they are reinforced with traditional activities, your child will bring them with him to adulthood. The only way your child knows if something is valuable or important is through the activities that surround that value.

4.  Traditions form a family identity and connection.  A child who feels connected to his family may not look for other groups to identify with that may not be the best choice. All of us want to feel connected, and children will search for connection.  Research shows us that children who have close family identity/connection have a better self image and are happier and more successful.

Traditions and rituals can be very simple…it is the act of repeating them, allowing them to change with your family’s “season in life” and keeping them fun that is key.  If something is not fun or causes stress then let it go!

Don’t get hung up on creating the perfect rituals, let them happen naturally based on what your family enjoys and values. Many rituals and traditions just happen.  The wonderful thing about a young family is that you have the opportunity to create your own unique family traditions  and rituals from scratch.  Some you will come up with on your own, some you will borrow from your childhood and some you will discard from your past, but the traditions you repeat will become part of who your unique family is.

Some suggestions to try during the holiday season:

  1. Take a drive in pajamas to see the holiday lights.
  2. Take a hike in a local park and find some natural decorations for your tree or to make other holiday decorations.
  3. Make a homemade Christmas tree ornament.  Date it, and each year you will add to the collection.
  4. Bake Christmas cookies and share with friends and neighbors.
  5. Draw Secret Santas in the family.  Each Secret Santa will complete a kind deed for the family member he or she drew.
  6. Have a traditional Christmas breakfast, or Christmas Eve dinner.
  7. Attend religious services together.
  8. Lay a piece of straw in the Baby Jesus’ bed each day if a child has done a good deed.
  9. Read a holiday story each night.
  10. Have a traditional Advent wreath or Advent calendar.
  11. Have a Christmas countdown chain.  Make a construction paper chain and tear one link off each day until Christmas.  Write an activity on each chain link that you will do that day.
  12. Camp out under your Christmas tree one night.
  13. Go caroling.
  14. Make a birthday cake for Jesus.
  15. String popcorn for your tree.

And the list can go on and on….share some of your favorite traditions and rituals!

Remember, family tradition endears your child to your family and establishes an everlasting family bond. The celebration, the meal, and the activities do not need to be perfect, the perfection comes from a celebration steeped in tradition and full of fun memories that draw a family together….that is perfection

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


Some things never change!

christmas pic 2011

Your “Mom words” never change!  🙂 

I was on the phone at different times this week with each of our 4 children.  After several of my conversations I realized that even though I am in a different season of parenting than many of you, my conversations can sometimes be very similar!

You:  “Try a bite….yummmm.  Try your squash.”

Me:  “Sure that would be good.  Just peel the squash, cut it up, toss it in some olive oil and stir fry it.  It will be great in that pasta.”

You:  “It is night-time, time for sleep.  Close your eyes and tomorrow we will have fun!”

Me:  “I know you are busy with classes and your project, but you need to get some sleep.  You will feel better if you get 8 hours tonight!  Crawl in bed early.”

You: ” You are frustrated with that puzzle piece not fitting…can Mommy help?  Try it this way.”

Me:  “Your tire is flat?  That is one frustrating day!  Take a breath, call Triple A and then find a Wal-Mart, they can fix the tire with the screw in it!”

You:  “Yea!  I am proud of you!  You pottied like a big girl!”

Me:  “I am so proud of you!   This new career move is going to be so exciting for you.  I can’t believe my “little girl” is heading to New York this week!”

You:  “Careful, you are spilling on your nice shirt.  Let’s take it off and then eat.”

Me:  “No…don’t put that nice shirt in with those dark clothes; it probably should be dry cleaned.  Just bring it home the next weekend you are coming home.” 

You:  “I love you so much.”

Me:  “I love you so much.”

I have come to the conclusion that I will always talk like a Mom…saying some of the same things just slightly different, offering my Mom wisdom, my Mom ear, my Mom advice,  and most importantly my Mom love….and I love that fact, because I love being a Mom.  TGIF, enjoy where you are at this moment.  Remember, there are only 940 Fridays between the birth of a child and when that child leaves for college!  Love today, 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.


Simple steps to prevent childhood obesity…we can do it!

We all have heard that childhood obesity is a major health issue in our country.  Children who are overweight will be more likely to be overweight adults and develop significant health issues.  We hear so much in the media about what to eat, what not to eat, how to cook, how much exercise we all need, and frankly sometimes it is simply overwhelming to parents.  We all are busy and many times the drive through at the fast food restaurant just calls our name at the end of a long day.  We can develop healthy patterns as families to guide our children to healthy lifestyles.  These healthy patterns can be simple…it is just getting started.  So, parents….let’s get started!

Breastfeed when possible and no solid foods before 4 months of age…

  • A recent study showed that when children were breastfed for at least four months, then the timing of solid food introduction did not affect the obesity rate of the child at age 3.  Children who were never breastfed or who stopped breastfeeding before age 4 months and were given solid foods before the recommended 4 months of age were 6 times more likely to be obese by age 3.

Know where your child is…(know where you are too!)

  • At your child’s 2 year old well child visit, your pediatrician will calculate his body mass index (BMI). This is a better indicator of weight issues than simply where your child is on the growth chart.  A child with a BMI greater than the 85th percentile for his age and sex is overweight, a BMI greater than the 95th percentile determines that your child is obese.
  • Children that have parents who are overweight have an increased risk to become overweight too.

Know what a serving size is….

Remember, children need child size portions!  A tablespoon per year equals a serving.  This is a simple guideline.  For a child age 2 to 3:

  • Grain Group: About 3 ounces of grains per day, half of them whole grains. That is about three regular slices of bread or one slice of bread plus 1/3 cup cold cereal and ¼ cup cooked rice or pasta.
  • Vegetable Group: 1 cup raw and/or cooked vegetables per day. (no ketchup is not a vegetable J, but tomato pasta sauce counts!)
  • Fruit Group: 1 cup fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.  Juice should be kept at a minimum.  Whole fruits are better than juice!
  • Dairy Group: 2 cups per day. Whole milk is recommended for children younger than 2, low-fat after age 2.
  • Meat and Beans Group: 2 ounces total per day. Options include one ounce of lean meat or chicken plus one egg or 1 ounce of fish plus ¼ cup of cooked beans (black, pinto, etc.).
  • Oils: 3 teaspoons or less per day of liquid oil or margarine.
  • For more information about eating plans and serving sizes for other aged children, visit MyPyramid.gov.

Provide two healthy snacks a day…

  • Unhealthy snacks fill up small tummies so children don’t eat the nutrient dense foods they need.  Try giving fruits and vegetables as snacks.  These foods are low-calorie, high fiber, and full of vitamins and antioxidants.  Giving these foods when your child is hungry encourages your child to give them a try.
  • Juice should be at a minimum…and no soda at all!
  • Keep healthy snacks in plain sight.  A bowl of fruit on the counter, fresh cut up vegetables on the first shelf in the refrigerator, dried fruit and trail mix in the pantry.
  • Don’t let your child eat because of boredom.  If your child has eaten well and had a healthy snack but still is begging for more…then suggest another activity.  Ask you child what he would like to do besides eat.  Help your child distinguish between “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry.”
  • Make snack time planned…no grazing throughout the day.  Have your child sit on the floor or at the table for snack time.  Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit!

Provide healthy choices at meals

  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Whole milk until age 2 and then low-fat or skim milk after age 2.
  • Full fat yogurt until age 2 and then lower sugar and low-fat yogurt.
  • Serve lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish and lean beef cuts and pork cuts.  Remove fat and skin.
  • Bake, broil, poach, grill, or steam when preparing meat, fish, and chicken.
  • Use vegetable oils like canola, corn, olive, and sunflower.
  • Encourage fresh fruits and vegetables in season, frozen next and canned last.  Have fruits and vegetables at EVERY meal.
  • Limit fast food to an occasional meal only.
  • Treats can include frozen fruit bars, frozen yogurt, low-fat pudding, angel food cake, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, and of course…the occasional Oreo!  Balance and moderation are important to teach children so they do not “binge” later.

Don’t force your child to be members of the “Clean plate club”…

  • Forcing children to eat everything that is put on their plates often leads to overeating.
  • Focus on the quality of the food your child eats and no the quantity.  Let your child learn what it feels like to be full and what it feels like to be hungry.

Get your child excited about healthy food….

Eat breakfast every day…

  • Start every day out right with a healthy breakfast.  Children often eat their best meal of the day in the morning.  Include healthy grains, fruits and proteins to give your child a great start.
  • Children and adults who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight.

Establish good sleep habits…

Get your child active…60 minutes of active play at least every day…

  • Get outside every day.
  • Choose developmentally appropriate activities.  Be careful about organized sports too early…burnout can happen.  Let your child just be a kid and play!!!
  • Provide active toys.  You should have balls, jump ropes, bikes and other active toys.
  • Be a role model.  Build physical activity into your daily life so you can keep up with your children and feel better!
  • Turn off the TV and limit computer time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours of total screen time a day after age 2.  That includes video games, TV, movies, and computers.

There is so much that parents can do to prevent childhood obesity and lifelong weight issues and medical problems.  Outdoor play, limited TV, limited fast food, healthy food choices, teaching appreciation for good foods, and soon everyone in the house is feeling better, having fun, and living a healthier lifestyle. We can do this Moms and Dads!

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 are having a baby!…..Now what???

Many of us picture the pure of joy of a new baby….many of us don’t think about the challenges most new parents encounter. Learning to be a parent plus the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn is not easy! Giving yourself grace and giving yourself the time and space to fall in love with your baby, navigate this new role, and not be perfect is essential in those first few weeks. Hopefully this article from SELF will provide some tips to survive, thrive, and enjoy your baby those first months after delivery! There are several experts who share resources and preparation for those first few weeks….I also have a few tips in the article! Share your thoughts and any tips you have for new parents.


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


Are the “Magic Words” still important?

Why is it that so often when you want your child to be on his or her best behavior…the most embarrassing things happen?  (Remind me to write about my son when he was 2 1/2 and dinner with our parish priest…long story)  Simply, because children are not born with manners…and the development of manners is a process, a LONG process, a LONG and IMPORTANT process.   This process of learning the all important life skill of manners  is much easier when started very young during formative years.  Words like “please” , “thank you”, “ excuse me”, and “I’m sorry” need to be taught, practiced, and modeled at home from the time your child is a baby.

Manners really help shape a person’s character, help increase a person’s self confidence, and definitely help make a person more likeable.  Manners are a part of most successful people’s lives.  People that naturally practice good manners have less focus on “self” and more focus on the respect of others. That is what I want for my children! Manners are so much more than just please and thank you!

Our children are exposed to very different social norms today.  Society is very open and allows honest expression of feelings.  I agree that honest expression is important, but we need to teach our children ways to respect the needs and feelings of others while still expressing their own feelings and needs.

I think some of our pop culture actually rewards disrespect.  Some of the most popular TV shows, popular music, and professional athletes glorify being rude and disrespectful…it has suddenly become “cool”.  As parents, it is our role to provide teachable moments so our children more often hear and see what is polite and respectful rather than what society may be teaching is the norm and “cool”.

So the fact is, no one is born polite.  In fact children, especially toddlers, tend to throw fits, grab toys, throw food, and display very few if any glimpses of manners…and we parents should not expect it!  Developmentally toddlers are not naturally polite!  However, your teen will not be polite either if you don’t start introducing the concept of manners and respect at a young age.

Where do you begin?

Between the age of 6 and 12 months begin with The Magic Words….

“Please”  “Thank you” and “Excuse me”

Saying please and thank you is usually the first bit of manners parents begin to teach.  You can begin this before your child is verbal.  Many parents teach the sign for “please” and “thank you” starting at about 6 to 9 months of age.  I see many of the youngest toddlers in my parenting groups sign “please” before getting their  snack!  Parents should always prompt, “What do we say?” or “Say please!” or “Say thank you!”  If your toddler aged child does not respond, then you should say the words and provide the sign for your toddler.  Soon, “please” and “thank you” will become a part of who your child is…and will be words that are used by habit.

Saying “Excuse me” when interrupting, bumping into someone, or (heaven forbid) making a bodily noise (which is hysterically funny for young boys especially) will also serve your child well.  Once again, forming the habit early and modeling the behavior for your child is essential.

“Play nice” “Gentle Hands” and “Share”

Toddlers are incapable of playing cooperatively and sharing nicely.  Preschoolers should have begun to master those concepts, but that will only happen with teaching and modeling the acceptable behavior.  When you begin to see your older infant or young toddler grab, push, or hit…respond with “Gentle hands.  Let’s play nice and share.”  Help your child share by trading the toys back, helping him take turns, and praising him for cooperating.  Toddlers who hit, shove, or bite when angry should immediately “take a break” or in other words a “time out”.  As you play with your child, trade toys back and forth, offer to share, model gentle touch and the behavior you want your child to learn.  After much practice, children will begin to learn how to play cooperatively, share, and respond with words rather than physical action.

“I am sorry”

Few words are more important in life than these.  Teaching your child to apologize when he or she is wrong or behaves in a way that is not respectful is an essential piece of manners.  Those words must be modeled by parents; apologizing to your child is essential to your child learning what a true apology is.  Again, teaching the sign for “sorry” can be the start.  Helping your child say “sorry” when necessary is also key.  If your child hurts another child or takes a toy, help your child apologize by prompting your child to sign or say the words, or say the words for him “John is sorry he shoved you, Mary.”  Talk about how saying sorry helps the hurt go away.

Talk and read about manners and respectful behavior every day. Some of my favorite books to introduce respectful behavior and manners to toddlers are:

Manners Time (Toddler Tools) and Sharing Time (Toddler Tools ) by:  Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen

Perfect Pigs an Introduction to Manners by: Marc Brown and Stephen Krensky

OOPS , Sorry! A First Book of Manners by: Richard Morgan

My Very First Book of Manners by: Michal Sparks

No Slurping, Little Pig! A book About Table Manners by: Sue Kueffner

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


Parenting tips…day three!


Final tips….add your own to the list!

31.  Respect your child’s likes and dislikes

  • Allow your child to develop their own passions, likes, and dislikes.
  • Provide opportunity for your child to experience many things to discover passions, likes, and dislikes.
  • Your child may not like the same things that you do, and that is OK!

32.  Be a team with dad and other people who parent your child

  • Don’t be a gatekeeper, allow Dad or other important people in your child’s life to participate in parenting.
  • Realize that there is benefit in doing things differently, different is not always wrong.
  • Have a united front with Dad; this gives your child a clear message of expectations.  Never disagree about parenting issues in front of your child.
  • Parents, who are not on the same page, will be manipulated.

 33.  Always set expectations

  • Defining your expectations helps your child determine expected behavior.
  • Setting expectations beforehand gives better results.
  • Frequent discussions about what you expect from your child helps him or her develop a good moral compass.

 34.  Teach basic manners by example

  • Manners and respectful behavior will help your child be successful.
  • Your behavior that your child observes is more important than the words you speak.
  • Make sure that your actions show respect of your child.
  • Provide the example of gratitude.

 35.  Talk quieter—not louder when you are very upset

  • This will defuse a frustrating or angry situation.
  • Everyone will remain calmer if voices are quieter.
  • Your child will have to calm down in order to hear you.
  • Yelling usually accomplishes nothing.

 36.  Use discipline in public, and if your child has a meltdown, leave

  • Following through on discipline in public will allow you to leave your home!!
  • Children learn very quickly when and where you will not follow through with consequences…and they will behave accordingly.

 37.  Sometimes look the other way

  • Your child will hear “no” many times, save it for the important things.
  • Pick your battles, some are not important enough to pick!

  38.  Don’t reward everything. Let your child learn the valuable lesson of being proud of himself .

  • Let your child develop an inner drive to success.
  • Constant rewards and praise result in a child that is externally motivated, driven by the outside things.
  • Internal motivation results in a child who does the right thing because it feels good, not because he will “get something” in the end.

39.  Know your child’s friends, open up your home to them

  • Knowing who your child’s friends are gives you a glimpse of their life away from you.
  • Know the parents of your child’s friends; parenting together gives you a sounding board and more parenting power.

 40.  Forgive yourself for not being the perfect parent

  • Your child does not expect or need perfection.
  • Being too hard on yourself, makes you not trust your parenting.
  • Expecting perfection from yourself sets the example for your child that only perfection is acceptable.
  • We only need to be “good enough”…not perfect.  Lighten up, there is always room for silliness.
  • Unconditional love trumps parenting imperfections!

41.  Some things are not worth the worry

  • Being a parent should not doom your life to worry.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • No child will starve themselves, temper tantrums are part of childhood, embarrassing behavior happens, you can’t protect your child from every illness and injury, and your child can be happy without the latest and best video game or pair of jeans….and many, many more worries that are not worth the energy!

42.  Teach good sleep habits and early bedtimes

  • Adequate sleep makes everything look better.
  • Children are wired early to bed early to rise.
  • Early bedtimes provide evenings for you to refill, recharge, and reconnect.

 43.   Don’t view your child’s life through a camera lens

  • Documenting your child’s life in pictures is important, but don’t miss the moment by trying to always have the perfect picture.
  • Step away from the camera and really enjoy the moment.
  • Sometimes the memory is better when you are actually playing in the pool with your child and not photographing it!

44.  Don’t wish time away

  • Don’t keep thinking life will be better when…..my baby sleeps through the night, my child is potty trained, my child is in school all day—with every stage is a new challenge and a new joy.
  • Enjoy each moment and each stage…they are all special.

45.  Keep it simple…working at parenting too hard or making it too complicated robs the simple joy!

Let’s make this an even 50!  What are your tips to share with others?  Share your wisdom…and help us all to enjoy every challenge and every joy of being a parent.  Like  Raising Kids with Love on Facebook and join in the conversation!

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


More parenting tips….

A few more tips that I found out work over my 30 years and counting of parenting….what are your tips?

16.  You are your child’s parent, not friend

  • You must parent, which means you may not always be liked
  • Making difficult decisions that may cause your child to be unhappy at the moment, is the definition of a good parent

17.  Nagging does not work

  • Saying “pick up your shoes” 100 times will not make it any more likely to happen

18.  Don’t buy a lot of “things” for your children

  • Buying does not equal love
  • Your child does not need a lot of things
  • There will be a new “gotta have it” every week

20.  Don’t feel like you must always play with your child

  • Time with your child is important, but your child must learn how to play without you.  This builds self-confidence, ingenuity, and your child will learn how to “work his world”.

21.  Don’t over schedule

  • Your child does not need to be involved in every lesson, sport, and club to become successful.
  • Down time is important to children, our children are often over stimulated and overly tired.
  • Teach your child the art of being alone….turn off the technology and be comfortable with alone time.

22.  Eat together as often as you can

  • Meals together reconnect a family.
  • Families who eat together have children that are more successful and less likely to be involved in alcohol and drugs.
  • Remember, a family meal can be a frozen pizza!
  • Breakfast counts as a family meal too!
  • Make at least one meal a week together a must.

 23.  Have family fun together

  • Plan activities together.  Don’t fall into the habit of everyone going their separate ways.  Family time builds connectivity.
  • Children that have a strong family identity have higher self-esteem.
  • Read and play board games, go back to the basics for family time.
  • Children remember the good in family time–even if it seems like a trip or outing was disastrous!

 24.  Establish family traditions and rituals

  • Tradition and ritual defines a family.
  • Tradition endears your child to home.
  • “That is how we always do it” means it is important!

 25.  Don’t helicopter parent

  • Allow your child to finish a task on his own.
  • Allow your child to experience consequence for behaviors.
  • Do not “rescue” your child from every hardship.
  • Let your child do his own homework and projects.
  • Give your child age appropriate responsibilities.

  26.  Parent with your heart and gut

  • Experts are great, but don’t rely only on what you hear and read, trust yourself.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
  • What is right for your family may be different from what is right for your next door neighbor’s family.

  27.  Attention is attention, whether it is positive or negative

  • Your child wants your attention, whether it is negative or positive.
  • Lots of talk about negative behavior gives that behavior lots of attention.
  • Try to give most of your attention to positive behaviors, not negative.

  28.  Love all your children but treat them differently

  • Do not try to treat each of your children exactly the same.
  • Every child needs something different from you as a parent.
  • Have the same rules in your home–but your approach to those rules may be different with each child.
  • Trying to keep things “equal” often increases sibling rivalry, give every child what he needs when he needs it.

  29.  Keep TVs and computers out of bedrooms

  • Parents must monitor their child’s exposure to TV, computer, and video games.
  • There is never a good reason to have a TV in your child’s bedroom; it decreases family interaction, reading, and creativity.
  • Keep the computer out in an area that is full of family activity.
  • Know what websites your child has been using.
  • Be tech savvy, your kids will be!

  30.  Know when to let go

  • There are times when you must trust your child–and let go.

The last few tomorrow…join in this conversation!  What are your favorite parenting tips?!  We all have them, share so we can all benefit from each other.  Like Raising Kids with Love on Facebook and join in the parenting talk!

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


A few parenting tips….

All of us have a few parenting tips…let’s share them this week!

We all know that there is not an “official” parenting tip book…wouldn’t that be nice!!  But, in actuality, it is best for parents to develop their own “parenting book”.  Parenting your child is unique to you and your child.  Develop your parenting instruction book by reading, watching others, and asking parents you admire what their best advice is.  Trust yourself and your ability to be the best parent to your own child.  Over the next few days I will share a few of my tips.  They are in no particular order, just a few tips that have worked for me over the last 30 years. Share some of your own too!  We all can use a little advice!

1.  Show your unconditional love for your child every day. 

  • Use your words of love verbally, and written.
  • Use your touch with physical hugs and kisses even as your child gets older; older children need that loving touch just as much as younger children!  Even if there is very little reciprocal hugging, the need is there.
  • Teach your child to express his or her love with words, touch, and actions.
  • Begin each day and end each day with “I love you”.  No matter how the day has been or what is in store, those three words make everything start or end well.

2.  Listen

  • Really listen, stop what you are doing and give your child your attention.
  • If you have more than one child, carve out a few minutes every day to share with each child individually.  A few minutes on the bed talking each evening worked for us!
  • Stop what you are doing when your child needs to talk, put the phone down, the computer away, and turn off the TV.

3.  Make your child feel safe

  • Keep adult problems adult problems; don’t share them with your young child or teen.
  • Don’t belittle your child’s fears; monsters can be very “real”.
  • Comfort your child when he is scared first, and then teach coping strategies.
  • Show your child that you will keep them protected.
  • Protect your child from violent TV, videos, and inappropriate web sites.
  • Discuss current events and news—don’t ignore what is happening in the world, but don’t dwell on world problems that are too adult for your child to emotionally handle.

4.  Provide order and routine in your child’s life

  • Routine brings stability and security to your child.
  • Routine and order helps a child manipulate his world.
  • Routine and order helps a child become a better student.

5.  Consistency is the key to discipline

  • Responding in a predictable way to your child’s behavior results in a child who knows what behavior is expected.
  • Sporadic discipline and consequences results in poor behavior.
  • A child who receives inconsistent discipline will push the envelope until a limit is set.

6.  Keep life fun, break the rules sometimes

  • Do the unexpected—eat ice cream for dinner, stay up too late, break your routine occasionally.
  • Enjoy a few minutes of fun every day.

7.  Take care of yourself

  • You cannot care for your child if you do not care for yourself.
  • Teach your child the lesson of self respect by “refilling your pitcher”.
  • Show your child your passions, your child will learn to develop his own.
  • A good parent is one who likes himself or herself.

8.  Take care of the significant relationships in your life

  • A happy marriage is the best gift you can give your child.
  • Your child should be the satellite of your marriage, not the center.
  •  Healthy adult relationships teach children what relationships should involve.

9.  Apologize when you are wrong

  • Teach your child that you make mistakes too.
  • Saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it repairs nearly any parenting mistake.
  • Teaching your child to apologize with true meaning is one of life’s greatest life lessons.

10.  Admit when you do not know the answer

  • You do not have to know everything to be respected by your child.
  • Work together to find answers.
  • Your child feels more secure when he or she knows that you are not “pretending” to know.
  • Your child will figure out that you don’t know everything eventually…trust me!

11.  Give your child chores

  • Teaching responsibility is key to becoming a productive adult.
  • Chores help a child feel like a valuable member of the family.
  • Self esteem is built on accomplishments—including small accomplishments like chores.
  • Chores help a child learn how to time manage.

12.  Encourage your child to listen to the voice in his or her heart

  • Help your child develop his or her inner moral compass.
  • Develop a group of core values that represent your family.
  • Talk often about right and wrong, and what feelings and emotions are connected with each.
  • Encourage your child’s moral judgment, role play how your child would react in situations that would call for that judgment.

13.  Find your spiritual guidance

  • Successful families have a spiritual core of beliefs.
  • Make those beliefs clear in your words and actions as a family.

14.  Surround yourself with like-minded parents and families

  • It is easier to parent when you have the support of others who agree with your parenting values.
  • It is so helpful to be able to bounce parenting issues off other parents for advice.
  • Your child will benefit from other families with the same moral guidelines.
  • Your child needs other adult role models in his or her life besides you!

15.  Every day is a new day

  • Each morning brings a new start for you and your child.
  • Let yesterday go, your mistakes and your child’s mistakes should not be dwelled upon the next day.  Start every day with a new beginning.

The first 15…more tomorrow.  Can you add a few to these 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.


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