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

Does your family need a media diet?

screen time for kids

For years parents have been encouraged to limit TV and screen time for children…especially preschoolers. We have seen many studies that show children who watch too much TV are more likely to be overweight, have an increased risk of attention problems, and their play is truly interrupted. Children who are exposed to sexual programs are more likely to have sex earlier and TV violence and violent video games increase aggressive behavior. All this research has not decreased the amount of screen time families have, children continue to have lives filled with smart phones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, and yes….TV.

I just returned from a wonderful vacation with my husband. I knew when I left that cell phone usage was going to be challenging, and I must admit there was a bit of anxiety about losing that connection. What would happen if I could not check emails, get phone calls, or heaven forbid see Facebook and Instagram? I realized that as much as I preach about unplugging and keeping screen time to a minimum for our preschoolers and controlling it for our schoolagers and teens that I too am very dependent on my phone and other “screens.

Families are so connected to their screens we have not been very effective limiting time on them for our children. The average child spends about 3 hours in front of a screen each day. Teens have much more! So, maybe we need to look at controlling the type of screen time our children have, not just the amount. A study published  by Dr. Christakis showed that if we can’t decrease the hours of screen time, but we use those hours for “pro social” programs or video games the result is positive.  Children’s behaviors improved when the programming was controlled.  Maybe it is time for every family to start a “media diet”. Great….another diet to look at, right? This one is different…so grab some of that Halloween candy and let’s chat.

  1. Don’t be controlled by your emails and social media. Pick certain times of the day that you will check these. Try catching up first thing in the morning, at nap time, and in the evening. Don’t be tethered to every email notification or push message from your social media! If we stop interacting to check out the latest post we send the message that our phone is more important than our child!
  2. Every home should have areas which are screen free. All meals should be eaten without phones or TV. This encourages family conversation. We know that children who have family meals complete with conversation have better grades, less drug use, and better life choices. So, turn off the TV and talk.
  3. Make a commitment to keeping your child’s bedroom screen free. TVs and computers in the bedroom increases screen time and can result in your child viewing inappropriate shows or information. Parent of teens, consider “checking in” the phone in the evening so your teen isn’t tempted to be texting and surfing all night.
  4. Be aware of how much your child is on a screen and what your child is viewing. Keep a log for a week and track the amount of time and the content of the shows, games, etc.
  5. Make sure you are watching what your child is watching. Sit down and watch the TV shows, play the video games, learn what it is that your child is seeing. Be sure you have rules in place for older children especially. What shows or games are acceptable? Be sure you are clear.
  6. Use your DVR. What a great tool to limit advertisements (this will cut out about 10 minutes of screen time per hour show!), fast forward through inappropriate scenes, and most importantly to stop a program and have a conversation about what was just seen. “How do you think that person felt when this happened? Was that a good choice?”
  7. Plan specific times of day that your child will be allowed screen time. Control the amount by limiting it to 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there. If it is a part of the daily routine and not just constantly on as “background” in your home, the amount of screen time will be decreased and your child will spend time playing in other creative ways. Don’t channel surf…when the show is over, turn it off!
  8. Be sure that you read about what your child wants to watch. A great guide to this is Common Sense Media. This will review shows, movies, and apps to see if they are appropriate. Remember, you are the parent and you have the ability to control what programs, games, and apps are brought into your home. Controlling what your child sees is more important than how much.
  9. Keep your computers and tablets in public areas of your home. It is too easy for kids to be exposed to inappropriate material if left unsupervised!
  10. Be aware of the social media sites kids are using (Facebook is no longer cool!) Don’t allow preteens to have social media accounts and monitor your teen’s site. Give continual reminders that what is put on social media is always permanent….even if it is “snap chat”. Go over “manners” and kindness for social media…it is so much easier to bully on line than it is face to face.

Taking control of the screen time in your home is essential. Technology is here to stay, and it has so much benefit if used correctly. So, unplug for periods of time during your week (it really is refreshing), keep conversations going using real words and eye contact, make TV time a family plan, control what your child sees and plays….and remember that your child can never “unsee” an image, so protect them from seeing something that could be damaging to their young minds. Let’s all commit to putting our families on a media diet!

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



What is in your discipline “bag of tricks”?

discipline tricks

What is in your discipline bag of tricks?

It was 7:30 am and my day was in full swing. I was chasing a two year old trying to get him dressed again. It is barely an hour into the day and I felt like I was on the verge of yelling and a time out before breakfast just didn’t seem right. Sound familiar? I am a big believer that spanking and yelling are not the best choices for discipline. I have taught 1,2,3 Magic for years….but sometimes you just need something else. Discipline is a parenting must. Children need guidelines, boundaries, expectations, consistency and consequences. I think parents really need a “bag of discipline tricks” to parent effectively. These “tricks” can help prevent physical punishment, increase cooperation, take away some of the No’s in your child’s life and quite honestly maybe bring a smile to you both. Here are a few “tricks” to keep in your repertoire….share a few of your own too!

  1. 1,2,3 Magic

This is my favorite discipline technique which is very effective when used consistently and according to the rules. Do not use it for everything….save it for behaviors you want to eliminate quickly.

  1. Remove your child from the conflict and give attention.

I know I always say that we should never give attention to a negative behavior, but if a child is acting inappropriately sometimes simply removing him from the conflict gently and bringing him to another activity of cooperation is effective. Example…You see your child grabbing toys from others and becoming aggressive, you walk up and take him by the hand and say “Come with me I need help getting snack ready.” You have just removed him from the behavior that is inappropriate, not used the word NO, and given positive attention for the cooperative activity. Usually works!

  1. Change your requests from “go” to “come”.

If you are trying to get your child to do something, approach from a cooperative view-point. Instead of “Go put your coat on.” Try “Come with me to put your coat on.” The tone totally changes and cooperation increases!

  1. Turn your no to a yes.

Telling a child “no” to a request will often result in a meltdown. When possible, change that “no” to “yes”. Example   “I know you want to go outside, we can’t now but yes, we will after lunch.” “Let’s play with the water here in the sink, not the water in the dog’s bowl.” “Leave your shoes on now, we will take them off at home!”

  1. Try using the “not for” phrase.

“Hands are not for hitting they are for patting and loving.” “Trucks are not for throwing, they are for pushing.” “Food is not for throwing it is for eating.” Soon you may hear your child repeating those phrases to keep himself from the activity!

  1. Get Goofy.

Nothing like a little humor to diffuse a situation! Try putting that jacket on your child’s leg, or hopping to bed, or singing a silly song. Once you both are smiling cooperation increases.

  1. Think Like A Toddler.

Why did your child just dump the dog food out again….or throw the ball in the house again…or dump a box of cereal out and stomp on them…??? Yelling “STOP WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” just doesn’t work. A young child doesn’t think about why he is dumping dog food or stomping on cereal, he is thinking this is so fun! When you think like a child you will have more patience and will react a little calmer. Tell your child that the activity looks like so much fun…redirect to something appropriate and have them help you clean up! (as much as a 2 or 3 year old can!)

  1. Behavior charts and rewards.

Time In is as important as Time Out. What does that mean? Reward your child throughout the day with positive words, stickers, hugs, stories or other positive reinforcements for behavior you like. That positive attention increases that behavior and then allows your child to really FEEL the removal of that positive attention if you give a Time Out for unacceptable behavior. Sticker charts work well at age 2 and older. Younger toddlers…and even older children will often just love a sticker to wear or a stamp on their hand for positive behaviors. If you have ever been to a Gymboree class you know how important that stamp on the hand is! Get creative! I heard of a Mom sending her child to bed with a brown bag every night. If he did not get up, there was something in it in the morning! Ignore unacceptable or annoying behavior when you can and reinforce the positive. Rewards should not always be bought…rewards of time make the most impact.

  1. Use consistent words to help your child.

“No touch”, “Kind words”, “Good choices”, “Gentle touch”, “Walking feet”….think of a few of your own. The more often your child hears the same consistent phrase, the more likely he will comply with the behavior. A reminder that results in cooperation is better than a punishment after the fact.

  1. Substitute appropriate behavior.

“Let’s climb on the couch cushions not on the table.” “Let’s throw the ball, not the truck.” “Let’s sing a loud song instead of scream.” Simply saying “no” without an alternative will often result in a meltdown or defiance. Give an alternative to the behavior you don’t want, and make it a similar activity to gain cooperation. Often your child is working on a skill like climbing or throwing!

  1. Try playing a game to get your child to cooperate.

“Let’s play a pretend game when you get dressed. It is all pretend, but if you do what I say you will get to wear a sticker! Are you ready? OK, Connor let’s pretend….Put your shirt on please.” If he does it you respond, “Wow I can’t believe you could put your shirt on! Are you sure you haven’t played this game before?” Give a big hug and a sticker. Because it is a “game” your little one will be excited about trying it out. Soon it will become merely cooperation.

  1. Intervene early.

You know your child and their behavior. If you see the unacceptable behavior beginning….redirect early. Don’t let the hit, bite, or shove actually happen. As your child becomes aggressive step in and redirect.

  1. Be assertive but also a cheer leader.

Don’t be wishy-washy and ask “Would you want to pick up the toys?” or “I am thinking it might be time to pick up and leave.” Be assertive and tell your child what is going to happen so there is no question on who is in charge, then be cheerful and firm on what will happen next. Cheer your child on as they begin to cooperate. Giving the impression that there is a choice or a chance to negotiate when there isn’t always results in conflict.

  1. Redirect physically.

A child may need to be physically moved from an area to redirect. Sometimes your words will not work. A child who is becoming aggressive should be carried or walked to another activity quickly.

  1. Praise ten times more than you correct.

Yep, you heard me correctly. Praise effort and not outcome and praise a lot. That is what a Time In is. Time Out removes your attention….the rest of the day should be a Time IN. Time Outs will not work if your child doesn’t feel the difference of the removal of your attention.

  1. Calm Down Bottles.

Another tool to help your child learn to “flip the switch” to calm down on his own. That is the skill we want all of our children to develop!

  1. Have an older child determine his or her punishment.

An older preschooler, school age children and teens are very good at deciding what the consequence for their unacceptable behavior should be. Often they are tougher on themselves than you would be. The consequences they decide usually make sense and are remembered.

  1. Start over….over and over again.

Rewind. This was one of my favorite tools. If your child is just starting off on the wrong foot, or you see a behavior that is inappropriate and can be fixed immediately; simply turn your child in a circle and make a “rewind” sound and let your child try again. I love the second chance to make things right. Sometimes my husband will actually do this to me in the morning if I am grumpy before that morning coffee kicks in!

So, those are a few tricks to put in that discipline bag. Be sure you are taking care of yourself, because we all know that we aren’t able to tap into our patience or discipline approach if we are on empty ourselves. You and your child deserve parents who “fill themselves up” so they are at their best. As time goes on, you will find the discipline approaches that work the best for each of your children. No child’s day should be filled with more “no” than “yes”, more boundary setting than free play, or more tears than smiles. We all will have bad days, but the good moments should outnumber the difficult. Remember, the purpose of boundary setting and discipline is to teach….not to upset your child.

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


Discipline means to teach

Boundaries and discipline allow your children to feel secure and happy!

One day, parents wake up and realize that their precious  10 month old actually knows that the TV or dog food dish is off-limits, but reaches to push the buttons on the TV or take a sample of dog food anyway.  Their cute little eyes look at you, and they reach their sweet little hand out just waiting for you to respond.  How did this happen?  Does your child really KNOW what he or she is doing?  When is discipline necessary?  What is the right discipline approach?

Discipline questions are some of the most common questions I receive when I am speaking at parenting groups.  Parents know it is a necessity, a real part of parenthood, but often question the how to and when to of the process.  First and foremost…there is one purpose of discipline…

Discipline comes from the word disciple, which means, “to teach”.

Children need rules.  Rules  makes them feel secure and loved, and helps them to understand boundaries.  Parents need to set rules that are simple, easy to understand, and consistent.  The toddler phase is one of the most important formative stages of a child.  You might think a behavior is funny at age 2 but it won’t be at age 5—and all this is simply magnified when they hit the teenage years.

Remember, you are the parent!   You are your child’s guide to making good choices.  Setting limits helps with self-discipline and development of self-confidence so your child will eventually make choices in life that are good.  Children want and need limits!! Children will often push until a consistent limit is set.  Boundaries and discipline give your child security resulting in increased happiness.

There are 3 pieces to an effective discipline plan.

  1. A positive, supportive and loving relationship between a child and parent.
  2. The use of positive reinforcement when a child demonstrates behaviors that are appropriate and desired.
  3. The removal of all reinforcement of undesired behaviors.  This means the removal of all attention.
Here is the best advice I can give regarding discipline…To a child, attention is attention whether it is positive or negative.  
This means that a parent who has spoken too many words explaining why a behavior is inappropriate or a parent who has thrown a mini tantrum himself in reaction to a child’s behavior has really just reinforced that child’s undesirable behavior.  The more attention we pay to a behavior, the more the behavior will be repeated by a child.  Parents must remove their emotion and remove the excessive talk when disciplining a child.
There are 7 general guidelines to discipline:
1.  Have realistic expectations.
Know your child’s developmental stage. As a parent, you may want your child to share his toys with friends, sit still during church and say “please” and “thank you” , but you have to consider what is age appropriate when it comes to behavior.  Discipline should not be used when a child is merely acting appropriately for his or her age and development.  For example, a 2-year-old that is not sharing should not be disciplined, children are not able to share on their own until around 3 or 4.  A 6-year-old child that will not share should be disciplined.

2.  Be patient and consistent.

Patience is key. Often parents will complain that they have tried a discipline strategy and it didn’t work.  Timeout was tried over and over again…but the behavior continued.   It takes a period of time for a child to learn and gain control of a behavior.  A child usually tests you to see if the consequence remains the same every time the behavior is exhibited.  Some children also have strong-willed temperaments that challenge discipline a bit more.  Patience and consistency with the discipline system is crucial!

3.  Validate your child’s feelings.

When it comes to discipline, parents need to be warm but firm.  Describe your child’s feelings.  Children that don’t have the words to express themselves often act out.  Saying things like,   “I know you are frustrated, but we don’t hit.”  “I know you are angry with Mommy.”  “I know you are sad.”    Giving your child the words that describe how he feels will eventually help your child use words instead of acting out.  This will also help your child begin to learn empathy…knowing how others feel because they have experienced it.

4.   Listen.

As your child gets older, parents will need to listen and respond.  It is fine to give your older child a chance to explain, but there should be no engagement in argument. Most of the time you will not convince your child that you are right.  Think about it, will your 2-year-old finally understand why he can’t have a cookie before dinner and say, “You are right Mommy, I shouldn’t eat a cookie now before dinner!”  Or down the road, I promise your teen will not tell you that he understands why you won’t let him go to a particular party that all his friends may be attending but you feel is not a good choice!  Parents can listen but not argue,  just simply say, “I know you don’t understand now, but this is my decision.”  No further argument is necessary.

5.  Model good behavior.

When you are teaching manners, or socially appropriate behavior, most children learn best by modeling.  It is like learning language, children learn by repeating what they see and hear.   When children see good behavior repeated over and over in the home, eventually they will incorporate that behavior.  So, practice what you preach, you have little eyes and hears tuned in all the time!

6.   Offer your child choices.

Many times you can head off a conflict with choices.  Giving choices to a child often increases cooperation.  When a child feels more control, they often will not act out as much.   Parents can offer choices between two outfits, or choices between two vegetables or fruits, or even choices in non-negotiable things  like brushing teeth, “I know you don’t like to brush your teeth, but it is important, so would you like to brush your teeth before you put your P.J.s on or after? ”  Giving children a sense of some control will decrease tantrums and increase good behavior.

7.  Know when to walk away.

Temper tantrums are a child’s way of blowing off steam and communicating their frustration.  They are a part of almost every child’s normal growth and development during the toddler years.  Some children have more than others.  If you respond to them, then you validate that behavior. Because the child learns that if he has a tantrum, then he’ll get mom and dad’s attention or what he wants. But if you ignore them, you will see them gradually subside.  Don’t engage if you feel like your child is pushing your buttons.  If you feel frustrated, walk away until you can respond calmly.  This certainly won’t reinforce the behavior and teaches them appropriate behaviors to model.

This is a start to the discipline conversation.  Talk with everyone who cares for your child so you all are on the same page when it comes to your discipline approach.  Consistency is the key…and remember give attention only to those behaviors you would like to see repeated!

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember 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.


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