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

Potty pitfalls

So, the potty training process has started!  Remember the mantra, “Two steps forward one step back!”  Potty training is a huge task for a toddler and a parent.  Sometimes you have a great couple of days, when you both are concentrating on the process, and then there is a bit of a back slide when you both relax a bit.  This is very common.  There are a few other “pitfalls” that are often seen as children and parents tackle the potty training process:

Potty Pitfalls

1.  Fears

  • Use of a small potty chair helps with fears of the adult toilet.  Begin with sitting on the potty fully clothed and progress to sitting without clothes.  Let your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal “potty” too!
  • Fear of flushing the potty is common, do not force the child to flush or shut the lid when flushing.  Automatic flushing public toilets can be scary too.  Cover the sensor with a post it note to prevent it flushing while your child is sitting!
  • If your child is a real “pleaser” or is afraid to disappoint be sure you don’t sound upset or exasperated with the process.  When there is an accident say “Oops there it went, a little accident.  Next time you will go in the potty.  We’ll try again.”  When he does go, congratulate but don’t be overly excited as this may increase the pressure to be successful again resulting in a child who is afraid to disappoint.
  • Fear of pooping.  Some children potty train easily with “peeing” but struggle with the “pooping”.  It causes fear in some toddlers to actually sit and poop without a diaper.  Do not force the issue in the beginning…start slow.  Some toddlers may have to progress from “pooping” just standing in the bathroom for a few days, to “pooping” sitting on the potty chair in the diaper a few days, to “pooping” without the diaper on the potty chair.

2.  Holding stool.

  • This happens sometimes when a toddler is afraid to poop.  This results in the stool becoming hard and painful which begins a cycle of holding and constipation.
  • Try to soften stool with diet by increasing fluids, fruits and vegetables or occasionally with medications like Miralax (speak to your child’s doctor before use).
  • Back off of potty training and go back to diapers until your toddler no longer is constipated or having painful stools.  This cycle needs to be broken for at least 2 weeks before you begin again.
  • You may have to let your child poop in their diaper standing in the bathroom, then poop sitting on the potty in the diaper and finally progress to even cutting a hole in the diaper and allowing the child to poop into the potty while wearing the diaper.  This may help with the fear of pooping in the potty.
  • Talking with your doctor is a good idea.

3.   NO!

  • A toddler’s favorite response is “NO”! This stage fades at about age 3.  Battling with a toddler is not productive and you NEVER win!  The attention you give during a battle reinforces the behavior.  You cannot force a child to “poop” or ” pee”.  Make it clear to your toddler that potty training is for your child not you.  The fact is that children all want to progress and develop.  Your child will eventually want to use the toilet.
  • Do not ask a yes or no question unless you are OK with the answer NO.  Tell your toddler “It is potty time!”  Do not say “Do you have to go potty?”  This gives a choice that may not be a true choice and will result in a battle or tantrum!

4.  Accidents

Accidents will happen!!!

  •  Stay calm.  Toddlers do not have accidents to irritate you!  Toddlers age 3 and younger will not try to have an accident to upset you!
  • Remind your child to slow down, sit a bit longer and completely empty his bladder.  This will prevent accidents later.
  •  Make sure you remind your child to potty.  Children get involved in play and forget!
  • The older child (after age 3) can help clean up the accident.  Do this matter-of-factly–not like it is a punishment.

5.  Night time Control

  • Nighttime training will come later.  75% of 5 year olds are trained at night with minimal accidents.  Children who do continue to wet the bed after 5 often have parents who had a history of bedwetting. There should be no punishment involved with bedwetting.  Children can continue to wear “sleeping diapers or pants” until later.  You can talk to your doctor about when further treatment might be needed.

Your child will be successful!  You both will be proud.  This is just one of the many challenges you and your child will meet 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.


Number 2 on the way….what were we thinking??

Our oldest loving her little sister….every moment wasn’t always this precious!

Most parents experience pure excitement and joy when they learn they are pregnant with their first child.  They dive right in to learning about a healthy pregnancy, preparing for labor and delivery, and planning the nursery.  Often the experience is a little different when pregnancy occurs for the 2nd time.  Yes, there is excitement, but there is also first hand experience with the first few months of a newborn.  I can remember being extremely excited and happy when I found out I was pregnant with our 2nd daughter, but my thoughts also included “What the heck were we thinking? ”  “How can we handle another baby….when will we sleep?”  “Corri is still a baby herself!”  “How will I ever do THAT much laundry?”…..

Yes, the 2nd time around, and the 3rd and the 4th, we knew what we were getting into…and that is a mixture of pure joy and pure terror!  How do you prepare for baby #2?

  • Remember to take care of you!  With the first pregnancy, that was on everyone’s mind.  Now, taking care of your first-born is first on the list!  Be sure that you are eating well, and sleeping well.  Still try to lie down when your little one naps or rests.
  • Give your first-born the news when the time is right.  Remember, 9 months is a very long time in toddler time.  When your body starts to change, and others are noticing, then it is probably time to tell big brother or sister about the new baby on the way!
  • Always talk about the baby as your child’s too.  Have your child talk to and even pat or kiss your tummy.  If your child asks questions about where the baby is….no need to panic.  You do not need a full explanation of the birds and the bees.  Just answer the question simply and if your child wants more information, he or she will ask.  Let them guide how much information you give.
  • Let your child go to the doctor with you and listen to the baby’s heart beat.
  • Check out books from the library about babies and big sisters and brothers.  Show your child pictures of  you when you were pregnant with them and when they were babies.
  • Visit friends that have babies.
  • Buy a doll or special stuffed animal to practice gentle touch.  This doll or animal can be a help once the baby is born.
  • Shop for baby items together.  Let your child pick out a special new toy, or outfit for the baby.
  • Transition your child out of the crib to a toddler bed or big bed several weeks before the baby is born.
  • Start to clean and put away any baby equipment that might be out still.  Put away baby toys that will be brought out later.  This will help your child forget about them being theirs!
  • Stock up on a few “gifts” that can be given to your child when others bring baby gifts to the new baby.  A few dollar items to give to big sister or brother may help.
  • Have a plan for the day or night of delivery.  Where will your oldest go?  Who can help out those first few days while you are in the hospital?  Make sure that your older child knows the plan, especially if your child is preschool age or older.  They need to know who will be caring for them when you leave.  Try to disrupt their routine as little as possible.

When the new baby arrives!

  • When big sister or brother comes to the hospital, it is best if the baby is not in your arms.  Have the baby in the crib and then allow older brother or sister to meet and greet the baby.  Let them hold the new baby with help.
  • Have a gift that big sister or brother brings to the baby that they have picked out.  Have a small gift for the big sister or brother from the baby too!
  • Once home, let your older child help as much as they would like.  Having them stand on a stool next to you while you care for the baby works well.  Often they are very interested in the beginning and the newness fades quickly once they find the baby doesn’t “do” much yet!
  • Give your older child a specific job they own…like bringing you a diaper.  They will feel important!  Be careful not to interrupt their play to have them help you though!
  • Be positive with your words.  If you can’t come play with big sister or brother because you are busy with the baby, say “In a minute I will play…want to see what Mommy is doing now with baby sister?”  Don’t blame the new baby for your delay.
  • Have a “nursing or feeding bag”.  Hang this bag on a door knob.  Have books, toys, quiet games and activities in this bag.  When it is time for a feeding your older child can go get his or her special bag to help entertain.  Moms have laps that can hold two when feeding also!  Let your older child snuggle up next to you on a couch as you nurse or bottle feed.
  • Try nursing or feeding your baby sitting on the floor.  Put your baby on a blanket for “tummy time” or put the baby in a bouncy seat so you can sit and play with your older child too. Being at their eye level on the floor helps your older child to feel less left out.
  • Point out things that the older child can do because he or she is a big girl or boy!  Being big is exciting!
  • When people ooh and aah about the new baby always ooh and aah over the older child too!
  • Let the older child open the baby’s gifts when they come.
  • Be very clear that there is a “no hurting” or a “be gentle” rule.  Give your child other ways to express angry or jealous feelings.  If there is a poke or a rough touch, an immediate “time out” is given. Speak firmly, no yelling necessary!
  • There are times when you must put down the baby and pick up and cuddle your older child….just because!  Be sure to do this several times a day.
  • Allow for regressive behavior.  If it is not harmful let it be.  Any major milestone recently reached may be dropped for a time.  Your older child may talk “baby talk”, have accidents if potty trained, or throw more tantrums.  All this is temporary if you do not give it much attention!
  • Don’t expect your toddler to handle jealous feeling politely.  Toddlers are not necessarily polite!  It is difficult for adults to handle jealousy so of course a 2-year-old will struggle!  A toddler will smile and hug their new brother or sister when he or she really is happy about that baby, not because it is socially expected!
  • Make it a point to spend some individual time with your older child each day.  That might be a story together, a quiet game, or even just a trip to the grocery together without the baby.  A few minutes a day of undivided connection is all that is needed.  Dad can help out with this too!
  • No guilt….sharing Mom and Dad’s attention is one of life’s important lessons and a sibling is one of life’s greatest blessings.
  • Be patient with yourself, your partner, and your child.  This is all new!  A snuggle, a hug, positive words and a good belly laugh will make the moments of “What were we thinking?” become fewer and fewer!

You are giving your child a gift with a new sibling….family is so important.  Your heart will expand with each child you have, there is enough love to go around….trust me!

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


Easter egg hunts and the importance of family tradition

Easter always brought out the hats, gloves, and even with my husband’s protest….plaid shorts and sweaters for Connor!  The dress will be a little different this weekend, I am sure!  🙂

I am so very blessed to have 3 of our 4 children, our wonderful son in law and our 2 perfect grandsons home this coming weekend to celebrate Easter. We will miss our oldest daughter!  It is easy to plan the weekend, because it is almost exactly the same every Easter!  The girls will not be wearing white gloves and Easter bonnets like they did when they were young, but all will be dressed up for church Easter Sunday morning.  The eggs will be colored Saturday evening, the Easter dinner menu will include the traditional ham, “Easter cole slaw”, and other favorites, and of course there will be an egg hunt.  As the children have gotten older, of course there are a few changes…the egg hunt now includes eggs filled with quarters or maybe a few gift certificates and a few “golden eggs” with a little extra cash for pizza or a movie. There is a real feeling of serious business as they head out for the eggs!  The sweet little egg hunt they had when they were young with their cousins has become a race to the finish with winning in mind.  The last few years, I always wondered what our neighbors think when they see grown adults with Easter baskets looking for those golden eggs. Things will change a bit again this year with 2 grandsons who know how to hunt for eggs, but the basics of the celebration will always remain the same….because as our kids say, “That is how we always do it!”

If we are smart we listen to our children when they say “That is how we always do it!” 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.

Creating your own special rituals now and faithfully repeating them throughout your child’s life will provide your child with a sense of security, stability, belonging and pride in his family.  It is never too early to start your own family traditions.

Four reasons tradition is important to a family:

1.  Traditions helps 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.  Sometimes we can feel unconnected when we get busy.  Family meals, stories, game nights etc. help us reconnect and start talking.  Soon we know what is going on in our children’s lives.

3.  Family traditions teach children what their family values are.  Service work, religious ceremonies, concern for the environment and many other values can be established through family traditions and activities.  These are values that when they are reinforced with traditional activities, your child will bring with him to adulthood.

4.  Tradition forms family identity.  Build a family group for your child to feel connected to and this will often prevent them from trying to find other less suitable groups to identify with.  A child’s family is a huge piece of their identity.

Traditions 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 the key.  If something is not fun anymore, then let it go!

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

Some suggestions to try that might be fun:

1.  The Easter Egg hunt…definitely a tradition.

  • Hide a combination of plastic filled eggs and hard boiled
  • Hide baskets
  • Fill plastic eggs with clues to a bigger prize
  • Use “bunny prints” to guide your child to his or her basket
  • Put out carrots for the Easter Bunny
  • Purchase a “special” basket for each of your children to be re-used each year
2.  Coloring Easter Eggs
  • Hard boil the eggs, let them cool slightly and let the kids “color” on them with crayons.  The heat of the egg will melt the crayon just enough to make it easier.
  • Use stickers to decorate the eggs until you are ready to tackle egg dye.
  • Have an egg decorating contest
  • Glitter eggs…roll eggs is glue and glitter
  • Use fine tip markers to decorate detailed eggs
  • Try marbling eggs by adding a little vegetable oil to the dye you are using
  • Tear up different colored tissue paper and glue it on the eggs for a stain glass window look
3.  Read stories about spring, baby animals, and the Religious meaning of Easter
4.   Baking
  • Traditionally at the end of a Lenten fast, many families indulge in sweets, find an Easter dessert that you can make together.
5.  Traditional Easter brunch, lunch or dinner
  • Find a menu that everyone enjoys, and make it your own!  Spring marks the start of lots of fresh local foods.  I can’t wait for the fresh new asparagus for our Easter dinner!
6.  If your Easter includes Religious tradition, it is never too early to include the children.  Clean them up and head to church.  Waiting until they can “sit still” might be years!  Attending church together as a family, even with young children, is essential if you are instilling this value in your child.  It might be challenging with young children, but worth it in establishing the value and the habit.  There is something so sweet in seeing wiggly children in church…I love it!
Remember, family tradition endears your children to their family and establishes a 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 draws a family together….that is perfection
Share some family traditions that you hope to establish!

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.


Don’t Parent with Fear, Protect Your Child with Empowerment

Do you have a parenting worry list?  I do….even with adult children I still have a list of things that I “worry” about.  Everything from “Are they working too hard and getting enough sleep?”, “Are they safe when they travel?” to “Are they really happy?” is on that list! I really believe that you never really exit that parenting role completely, so maybe there will always be a few items on my worry list.  There are few things that bring more anxiety to a parent than their worry about the safety of their child.  At the top of many parents’ worry list is the fear of their child being abducted or sexually abused.  The statistics can cause most of us to lose sleep….in general most studies show that about 20% of adult females and about 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual abuse incident. The U.S. Department of Justice states that 90% of the victims know their perpetrator in some way. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2020 91% of missing children were runaways, 5% were family abductions, 1% were lost children, 3% were young adults between age 18 and 20 and less than 1% were nonfamily abductions.

With this knowledge, we as parents may need to change the education we are giving our children. Maybe the traditional Stranger Danger is not the most valuable approach to keeping our children safe.  Let’s start empowering our children, not teaching by fear.  Let’s move to teaching our children that they own their body; they are the “boss” of their body and they must keep it safe and healthy. 

So how do we start?

Respect our children’s feelings.

 Beginning at age 5 to 6 months, many infants experience stranger anxiety and between 18 months and 2 years most toddlers experience separation anxiety.  These are normal developmental stages, but we need to respect those feelings of anxiety. Introduce “strangers” or new faces slowly, don’t force your child to go to someone he or she is unsure of or sneak away if you are leaving your child with a babysitter. Sit down, slowly introduce, help your child feel comfortable and if you are leaving, say good-bye. This is the first opportunity to say to your child, “I am listening, I understand you are scared or uncomfortable.”  This respect of their feelings builds trust allowing your child to share these feelings verbally later. This builds a trusting relationship between adult/parent and child.

Don’t force a child to hug or kiss anyone even a family member.

Help a child determine what is appropriate touch for the people around them, forcing sends an unsafe message of the child not being “the boss of their body”.  Give choices to help them determine what is socially appropriate and comfortable for them.

“Say high to Aunt Susie, give her a hug or high five.”

“Say good-bye to Grandma, give her a kiss, hug or high five.” 

“Say thanks to the lady at the bakery, give her a high five or thumbs up for the cookie.”  

“Thank the librarian for helping you find the book about dinosaurs.”

These prompts help a child learn the when and with whom hugs and kisses are socially appropriate and comfortable for them. This allows your child to feel ownership of their body.  There are many reasons why a child might be uncomfortable or shy with new people or family members. It is fine for them to decide between a kiss, hug, high five, fist bump, thumbs up, or a simple thank you is most comfortable for them. 

Call your child’s body parts the correct name.

Cute nicknames for private body parts teaches children that those body parts are embarrassing or uncomfortable.  When children are uncomfortable talking about their body, they are less likely to share about their body. We don’t want to increase secrecy or uncomfortableness about a child’s body or sexuality. Call it what it is….and don’t react with anger when the “potty humor” begins with a toddler or preschooler. Ignore this and it will soon pass!

Begin talking about “private body parts” at about age 2. 

Potty training is the perfect opportunity to introduce a concrete way for children to understand where their “private parts” are. Tell your child that their private parts are where their bathing suit covers. Explain that no one but Mommy or Daddy, or a doctor or nurse when Mommy or Daddy is there, should look at or touch their bathing suit area. Casually speak of their private parts when bathing, changing for the pool, or using the bathroom. 

Introduce the concept of “Good Touch/Bad Touch” around age 2 or 3. 

Remember this should include that a good touch makes you feel good and a bad touch hurts or makes you feel bad or uncomfortable.  Bad touch is not only in the bathing suit area, this can include hitting, shoving or even stroking an arm or back that just doesn’t feel right. Give your child permission to say “stop hitting me”, “don’t shove me in line”, “I don’t like being tickled”, and even expand this to hurtful words, “When you called me that, it hurt my feelings.” 

Tell your child “you are the boss of your body”. 

Empower your child to keep their body safe and healthy. When you buckle into a car seat or put on a bike helmet, talk about keeping their body safe, when you give them a healthy meal talk about fruits and vegetables keeping their body healthy.  Tell your child they are in control of keeping their body safe and healthy. You want your child to value and take care of their body and learn to set healthy boundaries.  This belief of “being the boss of their body” can empower them to say no to risky or dangerous activities when they are older.

Role play how to respond when someone hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable.

“Stop hitting me, that hurts!” “ Stop! Those words hurt my feelings.” “Stop touching me!” Role playing helps your child have a plan. If you see an incident at the park between children, give your child the words to say, don’t immediately “fix” the situation unless it is dangerous.

Keep talking.

The more often the topic is addressed the more comfortable your child will be. When you are giving baths, or dressing for the pool, casually mention where your child’s private parts are. When you are on the playground, talk about how to react if a child pushes in front of a line for the slide or says something unkind. Keeping the tone casual keeps the conversation safe and open making it easier for your child to share.

Don’t talk about strangers, talk about “tricky people”.

We all interact with people we don’t know every day.  We don’t want children to be raised in fear of everyone they don’t know. We know most abductions are by people a child knows or is at least familiar with.  A “tricky person” is someone who is either familiar with your child or has become familiar by speaking with them and gaining their trust. Tricky people don’t feel like a scary stranger but may try to trick a child into a situation that is not safe.  Instead of talking about “stranger danger” talk about the feeling of “uh oh”. Teach your child to trust their gut, when something feels uncomfortable teach them to say “no” or “stop” and leave.  Tell your child to share with someone they trust when they have that “uh oh” feeling. 

Help your child interact with “strangers” when you are with them in a safe situation. Encourage older children to order their dinner at a restaurant, help younger children introduce themselves to a child at the park, help your child say hello to the librarian or store clerk. Point out when a “stranger” was kind or helpful. People we don’t know are a part of everyday life and most are good people who will help your child if needed! Fear is not the solution to keeping your child safe! Teaching your child to listen to that inner voice or “uh oh” feeling is a key to staying safe.

Teach the difference between a secret and a surprise.  

Be sure you use the correct terminology and reinforce that families do not have secrets. A birthday gift for Dad is a surprise, not a secret. Children should never be told to keep a secret from their parents.

Have at least 5 adults in your child’s life who they trust.

Help them surround themselves with safe adults who love them. Children need adults other than their parents who will protect them and listen to them. This is especially true as your child enters school. These adults can be grandparents, close friends, an Aunt or Uncle, a teacher, a pastor or minister, there are many trusted adults who care for your chid.

Establish safety rules.

  • I will always play where I can see my mom, dad, or responsible adult who is with me.
  • I never go anywhere with anyone without checking with my mom or dad or responsible adult who is with me.
  • I will never eat any treat without checking with mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
  • I am the boss of my body. I can say yes or no to anything about my body.
  • Everyone’s bathing suit area is private.
  • I don’t keep secrets and no one should tell me to keep a secret from mom and dad.
  • If I get lost I can stay in one place and call for mom or dad or go find another mom to help me. (every child knows what a mom looks like, in most situations this is a safe individual for a child to ask for hep)
  • Grownups don’t ask kids for help (“Help me find my dog”, “Help me carry this to my car”) If they do, I must ask for permission from my mom, dad or responsible adult with me.
  • I listen to my voice inside or the “Uh oh” feeling. If something feels bad or wrong I will stop, yell for help, and tell mom and dad.

Good books to help with your conversations:

I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private By Zack and Kimberly King

Miles is the Boss of His Body By Samantha Kurtzman-Counter Abbie Schiller

Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos

We want our children to grow up confident, safe and happy….empowered that they are able to navigate this world successfully. Living in fear never results in someone who feels confident and happy.  Protect your child by empowering them!

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


Think about a straw cup instead of a sippy!

straw cup

Sippy cups are everywhere…there are aisles and aisles of them at most discount and baby stores. Cups with soft spouts, cups with hard spouts, cups with valves, cups without valves, cups with straws, cups with handles, and cups of every color and size. Choices, choices and more choices! Once again it seems a parent needs a class on how to choose a sippy cup. I am going to make it easy for you….

Sippy cups are a transitional cup…..Transitional! That means it is a cup for a child to use for a short period of time when transitioning from a breast or bottle. Children are developmentally capable of drinking from a lidless cup with very few spills by age 3. Capable if we allow them to develop the skill.

A cup should be introduced at about 6 months when a child starts solid foods. I have always recommended a sippy cup with a hard spout and without a valve. I now feel that a child should use a straw cup over a sippy cup. Children often use sippy cups like a bottle. Their heads are tipped back and they suck on the spout just like a nipple. When children suck, their jaw, lips and tongue all move simultaneously. This motion does not allow the jaw, lips and tongue to work separately which is necessary for speech. The tongue also is in a forward position pushing on the teeth, which can cause a misshapen mouth and a tongue thrust. This all can result in problems with speech and articulation.  The use of a straw cup will often prevent this from happening.

So, introduce a valveless hard spout sippy cup with meals at about 6 months of age. Start working with your child to use a straw cup. Usually by 9 months of age a child is able to use a straw. You can start by using a cup that can be squeezed, put gentle pressure on the cup to bring fluid up into the straw. Try using an open or lidless cup with meals and save the straw cup for times that you are away from the table and want to prevent spills. Your child can also practice with an open cup in the bathtub…no worries about spills there! So parents, let go of that sippy cup! Allow your child to learn how to drink with a lidless cup and use a straw cup when spills need to be prevented. Their teeth and their speech will thank you. Relax, there will be a few spills, but there is no reason to cry over spilled milk!

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


Should you worry about heavy metal contaminants in your baby’s food?

By: Cindy Love MSN CPNP

The introduction of solid foods is often an exciting time for babies and parents.  Is there anything cuter than your baby sitting in a high chair with food spread from ear to ear exploring the new taste of sweet potatoes? Having access to healthy food is key to a child’s proper growth and development. With the recent reporting of the presence of heavy metals in most commercial baby foods, parents are adding another worry to their parenting worry list. Toxic metals like lead, arsenic and mercury are often found in soil and water. So, food grown in this soil will take up these contaminants.  Additional contamination can occur during manufacturing and packaging of processed foods. Children’s developing brains are more likely affected by these heavy metals which can affect learning and behavior. Parents need to remember many things influence a child’s brain development and this heavy metal exposure is just one of them. However, any way that we can limit our child’s exposure to these contaminants will be a benefit.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the low level of heavy metals found in baby foods are most likely a small part of a child’s overall exposure to heavy metals.  We as parents need to work on limiting this exposure in all aspects of our children’s lives.  So what can we do to prevent the exposure?

  1.  Buy organic? Buying organic does not prevent heavy metal exposure. Some of the baby foods tested that were labeled organic actually had some of the higher levels. Organic food will limit pesticide and chemical exposure but not heavy metal exposure.
  2. Make your own baby food. Making your own baby food will help limit any heavy metal contamination from the manufacturing and packaging process; but this will not prevent the contamination of the food from the soil and water.
  3. Limit your child’s rice intake. Arsenic exposure is seen in diets high in rice content.  Rice cereal often is one of the first foods introduced to babies. Choose instead a whole grain cereal such as oatmeal, wheat, or barley.  Many toddler foods/snacks such as puffs, combination meals (chicken, vegetables and rice), and teething cookies (Mum Mums which are rice rusks) are high in arsenic. Choose snacks like puffs made with other grains, cheese cubes, frozen fruit to help with teething pain, and combination meals without rice.
  4.  Serve a variety of foods. This provides a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins which will lower the exposure of contaminants from single food choices. Sweet potatoes and carrots have some of the highest levels of contaminants, so including many other vegetables along with sweet potatoes and carrots will lessen exposure.  Wash all fruits and vegetable well in cool water before serving. 
  5. No juice for children under age 1. Very limited juice for children over age 1 (4 to 6 oz/day). Juice, especially apple juice, has higher levels of contaminants than the whole fruit. Choose the whole fruit which has more nutrients and fiber.
  6. Do not use rice milk as a milk substitute for toddlers and older children. Rice milk contains significantly high levels of arsenic. If your child has dairy allergies, talk to your pediatrician for other choices!
  7. Serve fresh whole foods. This is always better both for nutrition and the prevention of exposure to harmful additives and heavy metals during processing and packaging.
  8. Serve fish that is known to be lower in mercury. These choices would include light tuna, salmon, cod, and white fish.  Fish is a healthy source of protein!
  9. Don’t smoke or vape. A child’s second hand exposure (breathing in the smoke) or third hand exposure (clothing of a smoker/vaper) will increase exposure to cadmium and lead.
  10. Check older homes for lead paint.  Exposure to lead through chips/peeling of lead paint is the most common way for children to develop high lead levels.

We can’t prevent 100% of a child’s exposure to these heavy metal contaminants, but we can do our best to limit the exposure. Do your best, provide whole fresh foods as often as possible, limit the amount of rice based snacks and foods, and serve a variety of foods… then relax and enjoy that sweet face covered in food grinning at you!

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


Additional resources:

Tips to Reduce Arsenic in Your Baby’s Diet

Heavy Metals in Baby Food and Fruit Juice: Advice for Parents from Environmental Pediatricians

5 Baby Foods with Arsenic and Lead and Safer ChoicesEverything You Need to Know About Heavy Metals and Contaminants in Baby Food

This Valentine’s Day, Commit to 4 Goals….


Commit to your relationships with 4 simple goals…..

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Walking into Target, the aisles are full of pink and red and signage promising if you purchase this your Valentine will forever be yours! Yes, Valentine’s Day may be a marketing ploy more than a real day to celebrate love, but it is a great time to stop and think about your relationship at home. Let’s be honest, parenting can be tough. It takes a lot of effort to raise children, and there are points during the child raising process that there just does not seem time for anything else! But the fact is, time spent on your relationship with each other is vitally important for your happiness and your child’s. So often the blessing of children results in both parents totally concentrating on their children and not putting any effort into their relationship with each other. I was guilty of this at times. When our four children were younger, I can remember times when the only conversation I had with my husband revolved around if we had enough milk and who was driving to the next sporting event! Not a whole lot of romance there….but more importantly not a whole lot of relationship building. A relationship will not stay healthy for 18 years if there is only effort put forth on raising children! So as Valentine’s Day approaches, take a moment and thing about investing in each other……a few thoughts to get the process going….

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read was from a book Creative Counterpart. Over the years I have put this philosophy to work, recommitting to this over and over again when life became unbalanced.

Set four goals each day.

  • One goal should be for you. Something that you will do that day to “fill yourself up.” Remember an empty pitcher cannot give anything. Some days that might be 30 minutes of reading, maybe time to reflect, maybe a run, or possibly a big bowl of ice cream and chocolate! Something for yourself.
  • A second goal should be for your husband. Not something for him to DO, but something you do for him. I call it every day intimacy…this might be concentrating that day on giving a compliment or two, maybe leaving a post-it love note, an extra kiss or cuddle for no reason…something to build relationship.  Get creative!
  • A third goal should be for your child. Something little you will do extra with him or her. Maybe you will read an extra story, or you finally will get the finger paints out, or bake cookies, or just a few minutes of extra cuddle time before bed.  Again, these are small goals…nothing crazy like trips to Disney.
  • Finally a goal for your home. Kids and life can result in chaos in a home. I am not talking about a goal to wash walls and baseboards, but a small daily goal to control the chaos. Maybe today you will wipe out all the bathroom sinks, tomorrow you will put the laundry away, or maybe you will dust or vacuum one room.  These small goals will result in a home that feels more content rather than chaotic.

Those four daily goals will bring balance to your life. Every day kindness will become a habit and some of the negativity that creeps into many relationships when kids become the center of life will be squelched. Take time to remember why you fell in love.

Recommit to living your life and not being dragged along for the ride. Fill yourself up, give to your relationships, and take a bit of control in your home. Now fold to the pressure and go buy Valentines for your special someones…everyone needs to be reminded that they are loved.

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


Will preschool help your child be academically successful?

kels on swing

Preparing your child for school success includes outings like this!  School readiness is not just about letters and numbers!

It is that time of year when parents are beginning to look at preschools for next year.  Sometimes I feel that there is more pressure on parents to find “just the right preschool” than deciding on a college!   Preschool is a must for some children, but it is NOT a must for every child.  Studies have shown us that children who have engaged parents who read to them and provide various activities at home but don’t attend preschool are not at any academic disadvantage.  Some recent studies continue to show us that any academic edge a child may receive from preschool may fade by the 3rd grade.

So, do I think preschool is a waste?  Absolutely not, I feel it is very advantageous to those children who have fewer opportunities.  I also think that with Kindergarten now being a full day, a year of preschool often helps children adjust to the rigor of school.  It has become more necessary for children to have at least one year of preschool to help with the adjustment, prepare the child for following directions, learning to sit still for periods of time, and the general routine of school.  However, I do think that the choice of preschool attendance for 2 and 3 year olds from families who are able to provide outings, hands on activities, and reading at home is an option.  Many children LOVE their preschool experience, and Moms often enjoy some time to themselves.  Children also can learn very valuable social skills and have the opportunity to participate in some play activities that are not always offered at home like finger-painting and other messy play.  However, everything that a quality preschool offers can be offered at home by a loving, involved and active parent, if they would like.  At times I think parents are sent the message that they are not capable of providing the necessary experiences for their child to develop well and be successful in school.  Parents feel inadequate in the task of preparing their preschooler for academic success.  This is simply not true.  Attending preschool will not insure that a child will be more successful in school and unfortunately will not guarantee admission to Harvard!  More important than letters and numbers, a preschooler needs to develop life skills, social skills, self-confidence, and emotional maturity to be successful in school. To help with success in kindergarten, a child needs these basics:

  1. Good physical health so their natural abilities can grow and mature.
  2. Appropriate emotional maturity and self-confidence so they can accept new challenges.
  3. Good language skills so they can ask questions and participate in group activities.
  4. Good social skills so they will be able to share and interact with other children.
  5. Good listening skills to be able to follow directions.
  6. Familiarity with letters, letter sounds and numbers.
  7. The ability to sit still for short periods of time.

We are finding that a child does not need a structured academic program in a preschool; he or she needs the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills.  Children who do not have that opportunity at home will benefit from a preschool program.

Young children learn best through playing, exploring, and discovering.  Imaginative play will actually improve high level thinking which improves a child’s chances of school success. Forcing pencil and paper academics and academic drills too early might actually decrease a child’s natural desire to explore and learn!

What makes a good preschool?

  •  A preschool should be convenient for parents!  If it causes stress to get to school because of location or time of day, it will not be worth it to you or your child. 
  •  Children should be active in the classroom playing and/or working in groups or stations.
  •  There should be hands-on materials and activities available.  Pretend play items; dress up clothes, water play, easels, painting, clay etc.
  •  Children should have individual time and group time with the teachers.  There should be 1 adult/teacher for every 4 to 5 children.
  • Children should have their work displayed in the classroom…and it should not all look the same!  Children should have the opportunity to be creative with projects.
  • The learning of numbers and letters should be embedded in activities throughout the day, not in concentrated lessons or drills.
  • There should be outside play daily (weather permitting).
  • There should be a developed curriculum that provides some structure to the day.
  • Teachers should have an Early Child Development background/education.
  • There should be a stable teaching staff with little turnover.
  • Music should be incorporated into the curriculum.
  • Daily life skills should be incorporated into the curriculum like buttoning, shoe tying, putting on jackets, picking up toys, sitting for short periods to listen and following directions.
  • There should be opportunity for children to socialize in play with other children freely learning sharing, taking turns, and other social skills.
  •  Children should be read to in groups and individually.
  • “Field trips” to experience the world should be included in the curriculum.  Trips to apple orchards, parks, the zoo, nature centers and other community destinations are important.

What can you do at home?

  •  Provide time for imaginative play.  Be sure that you have toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
  •  Provide time to use paint, clay, scissors, crayons, chalk, water play, and other tactile fine motor play.
  •  Provide outdoor play daily (weather permitting).
  • Expose your child to the world by going to the grocery store, post office, library, zoo, park, nature center, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and other places.  Talk about your outings!
  •  Read daily.  Provide books that your child can “read” alone.
  • Talk about stories that you read.  Ask your child what will happen next!  Let your child tell you the story.
  •  Provide music.  Sing songs and dance.  
  •  Point out letters on signs, talk about funny words, find words that rhyme, talk about the sounds that words begin with.
  •  Point out numbers, count items when playing, incorporate counting into everyday life.
  •  Have a routine at home; following routines will help when your child has structure and routine at school.
  •  Allow your child to dress himself. Practice buttoning, shoe tying, independently going to the bathroom, hand washing, and other    independent life skills.
  •  Give your child directions to follow. Start with one step directions and then move to two steps, and three and four step directions. 
  •  Give your child developmentally appropriate chores or responsibilities.  (Pick up toys, carry dishes to the sink, put dirty clothes in the hamper etc.) 
  •  Provide sorting and sequencing opportunities.  Use a muffin tin for your child to sort different cereal, colored pompoms, letters, or other items.  Let your child help you sort socks!
  •  Help your child recognize his or her name in print.
  •  Talk about shapes your child may see around the house or outdoors.
  •  Provide opportunities for your child to play with children his or her own age.

We all want our children to be successful in school.  I believe however that the most important skills our preschool aged children need are not academic but social.  Children are very pliable; we can teach a child to do many things at a very young age.  We can teach a 2-year-old to recite numbers and letters, and we can even teach many 4 year olds to read….but I question at what cost?  Will our children develop those skills that are truly needed for success in school?  The skills that will allow him or her to problem solve, interact socially in a respectful and appropriate manner, follow directions and listen, and think with innovation and creativity; those are what are most important.  So whether your child is in preschool or at home, be sure you are opening up the world to him or her, not pressuring academics too early and then your child just might end up heading to Harvard!  What are your thoughts?

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



Happy and Healthy Families in 2021

The New Year often has us looking at goals and resolutions. I am not a big fan of New Year resolutions, they often set me up for failure. I am a big fan of New Year hopes. There is something about new beginnings that gives me a bit of excitement. I always liked the beginning of a new semester, the start of a new sport season, opening a new daytime planner, even the start of a new day. There are so many possibilities with new beginnings. 2021 is no exception……

My hope for all of us is a lot more happiness and health in 2021. How do we get there as a family? There are a few simple things we can do which can truly make a difference in our life and our children’s lives.

Sleep…we all need it. Without it we are less patient, more irritable, less energetic and actually less healthy. Studies show our risk for obesity and cardiac disease increases with poor sleep habits. Bedtime routines for our children and ourselves are very important. Think bath, book, bed! Good for adults too!

Cook together, eat together and don’t skip breakfast! Starting the day off right with breakfast that includes both carbohydrates and protein is important. Keeping blood sugars from crashing improves learning and behavior in both children and adults. Life is better when we aren’t “hangry”! We also know that children who help out in the kitchen are more likely to eat what is prepared and families who eat together are better connected and children are more likely to do better in school and have less behavioral problems.

Move! Exercise improves health and mood. Feel good hormones (endorphins) increase with movement. A brisk walk outdoors, a dance party in the house, playing at the playground, a quick game of basketball on the driveway or soccer in the yard makes everyone feel better. Physically tired children and adults sleep better too! It feels so good to be physically tired and not just mentally exhausted!

Unplug! Decreasing screen time can increase happiness! Put down the phone, turn off the TV, get off social media and this can result in more movement, less mindless eating, more conversation with family, and less competitive parenting/comparisons through social media. You will be more present instead of viewing the world through a screen. Get those board games out, sit and read, or simply share your day in conversation and improve the mood of your family!

Plan a little fun, be spontaneous, celebrate everything! Sometimes we need to simply plan a little fun. Do something a little out of the ordinary. Eat ice cream for dinner. Families that work fun into daily routines are happier. Why not celebrate “over the hump Wednesday” or “Fun Friday”? How can you make “Taco Tuesday” a little more fun? Keep it simple, but planning fun or a little crazy into your life can bring some welcomed stress relief and laughter into a week.

Outside everyday! Sunshine, fresh air and a little nature are all mood boosters for children and adults. There are very few days that the weather is too bad to be outside. There is no bad weather, just bad dressing! Hot or cold, dress for it and get a little fresh air.

Forgive and forget. We all need a little grace. Life is not perfect and neither are we. We will make parenting mistakes, our children will disappoint us, we will lose our temper, our children will throw fits or be sassy, and some days are more challenging than others. Forgive yourself, forgive your child, don’t hold grudges, start over every day or multiple times a day. Move on and hug your child, your spouse and yourself. Don’t dwell on the negative and your day will always be better.

We all can eat a little healthier, move a little more, enjoy the outdoors, unplug from our screens, give a little grace to others and hug a bit more. As I look at 2021, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we all can live a little better and love a little more. Be joyful!

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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