Family Time: Instant Protection Against Dangerous Influences

Moms on Edge LogoFamily time is a necessity for those wishing to build happy and healthy families. Parents that take time out to eat as a family, play, read, and talk together, teach children that they matter, that relationships are worth nurturing, and that strong family bonds breed success. 

Setting aside blocks allocated for family time can be very difficult for busy families. By the time everyone is home from work, school, sports, and other outside activities people are tired, playing a board game seems like the least important item on the to-do list. However, playing a board game, metaphorically, is the most important item to cross off of the list.  

Family time is valuable time when parents can take time out to observe their children, follow their children, hug and kiss them, encourage, guide, and laugh. Family time is when children feel comfortable opening up to their parents; this is a time when the mood is relaxed and children feel supported, valued and loved. 

Eat together

Studies have shown that the family activity with the greatest positive impact on children, is sitting down together to dinner each evening. Benefits for children include learning patience, (family members should wait for everyone to be served before eating and remain at the table until everyone is through), sitting quietly and calmly to eat, and listening attentively and participating in the conversation. If an evening meal is impossible to schedule, families can find a different meal to gather, a fun idea is to set the table later in the evening when everyone is home, and have dessert together.  

Children should be included in meal preparation, setting the table, and clean-up. Although table manners must be taught and reinforced, mealtime should be a pleasant experience with a focus on togetherness. Quick behavioral reminders will reinforce good manners and then conversation can be resumed. Parents should choose to be in a good mood and not let the day’s issues weigh down the meal. After all, this is family time! 

Creative planning can make the evening meal easier to put on the table and clean up afterwards. Simple meals, and meals prepared in advance and frozen, are good ways to ease the evening scramble and help keep the focus on family time, not on cooking and cleanup. Instead of spending an hour cleaning the kitchen after the meal, simple meals free up some time in the evening for togetherness. 

Shut off the television and the computer

Shutting off the television in the evening helps to place the focus on the people in the house instead of the strangers on the screen. The evening hours spent interacting as a family instead of staring at the television will benefit everyone greatly and will help create warm and lasting memories.  Shutting off the television and the computer eliminates the risk that children will be exposed to damaging levels of violence and sexual content. Experts claim that violence and sexual imagery negatively change the brain chemistry of children, resulting in permanent changes in the brain’s wiring.   

Set a relaxed mood

Bathe young children and put them in their pajamas. Put on some light music that isn’t jarring or offensive, this often cues a little impromptu dancing from children, always good for a laugh. No arguing, bickering, or crabbiness. Family time should be warm, joyful and happy. Parents should be demonstrative and giving, snuggle, hug, and kiss the kids and each other. Family time like this is ideal for modeling loving, kind behavior. 

Find fun games and activities

The nature of children is to be fun loving and flexible and open to many ideas. Coloring, board games, guessing games, acting, playing with dolls or cars, and reading are all fun things to do together. Allow children to help set the evening agenda. One idea based on the Montessori principal of learning suggests observing the child and leading by following the child.  

There are other opportunities during the day for family time

The evening is not the only option for family time. Parents should seek out other times to be together. Take the kids on the morning and afternoon dog walk, invite them to join in on gardening, ask them to help wash the car or help with the laundry. It is probably true that activities will be completed slower with kids as helpers, but their happiness far outweighs the inconvenience. 

Parents who zone out each evening in front of the television or computer for hours and hours rob children of the necessary family time that they need. It is stingy of parents to choose to channel or web surf over spending time with their kids. In a blink of an eye the kids will be up and out of the house and parents will have the rest of their lives to stare blankly at a screen, alone.  

Making a conscious effort to spend quality family time together is vital to the health and welfare of children. Children do not thrive if parents don’t interact with them daily. When parents choose to have kids, they automatically choose to sacrifice their time to raise their kids. Family time is a parenting tool which helps to regulate the content that children are exposed to and introduce healthier activities. Developing strong relationships with children also will build bonds that last a lifetime.   

4 Successful Parenting Tips I Learned from my Harvard MBA Husband

moe-logo.jpgMy husband is an insightful businessman with the unique ability to create something out of nothing, envision the future, work efficiently and strategically, and quickly get to the bottom line. In his books and seminars he teaches useful business strategies to high level executives so that they can grow their businesses successfully. His clients rave about the results they achieve when they implement his lessons.

Eager to have the same successful results parenting that my husband’s clients have with their businesses, I have incorporated four of his business practices into my parenting technique.

Think Strategically

When one thinks strategically he or she devises a careful plan of action to carry out and achieve a goal. Strategic thinking is a helpful tool for today’s busy parents who are pulled in many different directions and pressed for time. Set a goal and devise a smart plan to achieve the goal. Strategic thinking can be used in conjunction with meal planning, grocery shopping, leaving the house in the morning, etc.

For example, getting the kids to bed at the same time every evening is a great goal that can often go awry for many households. Creating a step by step plan, in this case a bedtime ritual, is an excellent means towards achieving the goal of consistent bedtimes. As children become more and more familiar with the bedtime ritual their internal clocks get set and falling asleep gets easier and easier.

Strategic thinking makes parenting easier because the whole family knows and adheres to a good plan and with a minimum of stress, achieves their goals.

Time Management

Good time management asks two questions: Is the activity of value? If the activity is of value, what is the best way to do it efficiently? Parents who find that the day is overwhelming, should ask themselves whether the majority of their time is being spent doing important activities efficiently.

There are four questions that should be asked when determining the efficiency of their activities: Should the activity be done at all? Does the activity need to be done now? Can someone else do it? Does the activity have to be done perfectly or is good enough, good enough?

A simple example is setting the table for the evening meal. The answer for most families is, “Yes, this is an important activity.”  Does mom or dad have to step away from the stove to set the table now? “No, a child would feel proud to do it now.” Does it have to be approved by the Queen of England? “No, good enough will do and I am proud my child completed the table, not guilty that it isn’t perfect.”

Create Possibility and Move Things Forward

Creating possibility opens the future to bright and wonderful situations and creates opportunity. Moving things forward happens when the person acts on the possibility created.

Parents should be coming from the possibility of love for children when there is opportunity to express it. For example, when a parent is faced with a challenging discipline situation, he can scream and lose his marbles or he can come up with ideas or possibilities to express his love while still managing the children’s behavior.

“Maybe my kids are out of control because we have been in the car all morning, if I take them to the shore and let them run on the beach for an hour I bet we would all calm down.” Moving things forward is then simply Dad driving to the beach and having a wonderful time rough housing with the kids for an hour.

Another way of thinking about this is Stephen Covey’s concept of choice. As he says in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:“BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE IS OUR FREEDOM TO CHOOSE. We have self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will. Responsibility is the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

Manage Risk

With every activity in life there is the chance that something could go wrong. Putting a baby in the tub and feeding whole grapes to toddlers are high risk parenting activities. Moving the baby from the crib to a bed with a rail is medium risk and coloring at the counter with washable markers is low risk but risky all the same.

Thinking ahead will help parents manage risk and will minimize the likelihood that something might go wrong. Parents need to get in the habit of asking themselves, “If I let my kids do this, what is the most likely outcome.”

Parents should measure the probability of something (good or bad) happening multiplied by the negative impact if it does happen. They should then ask, “What is the cost of eliminating the risk?”

For example: Electrical outlets are dangerous if a child sticks a fork in one, so parents are willing to go to the baby store and buy outlet protectors. A child might possibly be able to remove an outlet cover, but is that slight risk worth the parent hiring an electrician to come in and move all of the electrical outlets up to the ceiling?

Parents who overestimate the probability that something will happen, compulsively worry and hover. People who underestimate risk don’t provide a safe environment for kids. Good parents are able to correctly estimate risk so that they protect their children when the risk is too high and loosen up the reigns when the risk is low.

Applying these business management practices to the everyday challenges of parenting will help give parents tools to parent more efficiently and with less stress. Parenting thoughtfully and creatively will model effective adult behavior to children and create a calm and peaceful home.

     

Bedtime Rituals for Children, Ease Bedtime Chaos for Parents

“I can’t take it anymore!” a young mother’s desperate e-mail pleaded, “it takes anywhere from two to four hours to get my kids to bed at night and I am so tired. Sometimes I sit in their room and cry as I wait for them to fall asleep. What should I do?”

Sleep problems are a tremendous issue to parents. Nobody informs couples when they are expecting their first baby that “sleeping like a baby” means taking two hours to fall asleep and then waking up every hour and a half for the first year or two and not actually sleeping through the night until age five.

Many parents, even after having read all of the parenting books, are plagued with countless nights of difficult bedtimes, pop-ups (kids leaving their beds after lights out), and musical beds.

Is there a way to get kids to bed without the evening drama? How do parents end the day on a positive note with big yawns and kids happy to put their heads down?

The Bedtime Ritual

A set bedtime ritual is an effective method to get kids into bed and have them stay there and fall asleep on their own. The bedtime routine also makes the evenings mellow and cozy and sends the kids into dreamland on a happy note. Be warned, set means “set in stone” until the children’s body clocks are set and they really associate the stages of the routine with sleep.

The Perfect Bedtime

Figure out the perfect bedtime. For some kids it is really clear when they need to go to bed because they yawn and get glassy eyed and say they want to go to bed. Other children start to get cranky and tearful and still others get hyped up and wild. Parents should pay close attention to their kids for a couple of nights and hone in on the best time to put their kids into bed.

Count Back One Hour and Get in the Tub

One hour before bedtime shut off the television and dim the family room lights. Brush teeth and then put the child in the tub. Bath time is a wonderful way to settle children and get them to relax. Lower the lights in the bathroom and start to speak in lower tones. Use bath products that are designed for children so there are no stinging eyes and upsets that get the children agitated. Products that are scented with oatmeal and honey, lavender, almond and vanilla smell delicious and are said to relax and calm. The object of bath time, in addition to scrubbing off the playground dirt, is to start to wind down the child.

Soft Towels and Snuggly Pajamas

Dry off the child gently without being vigorous. Bring the child into his room and put on a bedtime CD. A little back massage with a gentle lotion will further mellow the child. Put on pajamas, one more visit to the potty and then straight into bed. One note about pajamas: find pajamas that the child loves and that are comfortable. Putting on pajamas should not be a fight or the wind down to this point has been a waste.

Tuck In

Being tucked in is very important to children. They love to feel safe, protected and at peace. One mother makes her children into a “pie” every night. She “crimps” the edges of the “pie” by tucking the sheets all around the child and then finishes with a big kissing dollop of whipped cream. The point of her practice is to make tucking in the children significant and important, and delicious.

Read a Book

Read for fifteen minutes every night. Reading to children is very important for their education and will help encourage a love of reading and learning. Choose nice stories that don’t evoke scary thoughts. Chapter books are a wonderful way for children to use their imaginations. One chapter is usually sufficient to get those yawns happening and the eyelids drooping. If kids want a picture book that is great; just don’t let one book become five. Otherwise, suddenly an hour has gone by, the kids have missed that perfect bedtime, and mom or dad are leaving the kid’s room at 9:30 pm.

Lights Out and Give Thanks

Turn off the lights and leave them off.  Say prayers, or for those not religious it is meaningful to give thanks for the joy in their lives and all that they have. It is lovely to come up with the same words every night so that the children can recite with mom or dad. For example, a phrase from the paragraph that one family always says is, “Boys, please know that mommy and daddy love and adore you and that it is an honor and a privilege and a pleasure to be your parents…”

The Finale and One Ace up the Sleeve

At this point parents can say goodnight and leave the room. However, one mommy claims to have a secret weapon; The Three Bears. Every night since her oldest child was one, she has told the story of The Three Bears. She never changes the story, not even the inflection of her voice. They all associate sleep so much with this story that it has a “Pavlov’s Dog” affect on the entire family. She can barely get through The Three Bears herself without dosing off. This “ace up the sleeve” is a really great suggestion. If parents need to round out the bedtime ritual with one final story, tell the same exact story every night; this programs children that it is time to doze off.

Conclusion

Children love a set routine. Knowing exactly what happens next gives them a sense of safety and security and teaches them to self regulate. A child’s internal clock is set if a bedtime ritual is created and adhered to. Sleep will come more easily than if every evening the routine changes. If parents are consistent and do not vacillate with the routine they establish for their kids, they will have children happy to go to bed and stay there.

     

    

10 Organizational Tips for Overwhelmed Parents

Parents often feel overwhelmed, frustrated and guilty as they guide their children through the stages of childhood. For most parents, cooking, cleaning, carpooling, grocery shopping, bath time, bedtime, and potty training are on the shortlist of what they are responsible for daily. It can feel like the tasks keep mounting up and there are no parenting tools to help keep up.

Chores can preclude important parenting responsibilities like teaching children about good behavior and manners, playing games as a family, or just sitting back and enjoying some peace and quiet together. Clutter and disorganization can heighten the strain that many parents already experience raising children.

Good organization is a parenting aid that leads to a more manageable life and more time to interact with the children. Maintaining a well organized life helps in parenting with less frustration and stress. Taking time out to keep the home clutter free and running smoothly does wonders in reducing parental stress.

Following are ten tips to increase peace, quiet, and free time in your home:

1. Pick-up, toss and donate. Place an attractive large basket with handles in a central location. Designate a separate bin, basket or container for each family member marked with his or her name. Keep the bins accessible, for instance on the stairs leading up to bedrooms or lined up in the hall near bedrooms.

Every evening before bedtime walk through the house with the handled basket and pick up everything left on the floor, on counters or draped over furniture.

Transfer the salvaged items from the handled basket into the owner’s bin. Make a rule that bins must be emptied before bed or the bin owner will lose a privilege. You can go even further and say that items left in their bins overnight will be donated to those in need. Be insistent and consistent about children putting away their things and disciplining appropriately for leaving items in their bins. Being responsible for one’s belongings and helping to maintain a clean environment is a very important behavioral lesson that teaches children respect for home and family.

2. Make sure that everything has a place. It is impossible for children to put their belongings away if there is no designated location. Make sure that there are plenty of shelves for books, drawers for clothes, bins for toys, hooks for bags, bathrobes, coats and hats. Putting things away should not be random; sometimes it goes here, sometimes it goes there. Everything needs a permanent home; board games always go in the closet, socks in the upper right hand drawer.

3. Set up hooks for coats and a bowl for keys. Inside the door where the family comes and goes, hang a labeled individual hook for each family member where he/she can hang a coat and backpack. A wonderful addition to the hook is a cubby placed underneath the hook for hats, mittens, lunchbox etc.

Place keys, sunglasses and cell phones in an attractive bowl close to the regularly used door and be sure to get in the habit of throwing all items into that bowl. Not searching around the house looking for the keys will save a lot of time and energy and reduce parental stress.

4. Save one and toss the rest. Children bring a lot of paperwork home from school. It is impossible to save and store it all. Choose a small representation of what the child is doing in school and toss the rest. A thin well labeled spiral ring notebook with plastic sleeves works nicely for storing a small sampling of the child’s hard work. An alternative to the notebook, is to scan the pages into the computer and keep a CD of the child’s school year.

Really wonderful pieces can be brought immediately to a great frame shop to be framed and later displayed in a prominent spot in the home. One expertly matted and framed piece of artwork honors a child’s hard work far better than keeping a stack of papers hidden away and yellowing in a musty box or drawer.

5. Do one load a day. Wash, dry, fold, and put away one load of laundry a day. As soon as a day is missed, the laundry starts to pile up and the work becomes overwhelming. Teach children how to sort their own laundry and put into appropriate laundry baskets. Get children into the habit early of picking up their clothes. Teach the children how to put away their own clothes in the appropriate place.

6. Hang up a shoe tree. Hang a shoe tree on the back of the door that the family uses most frequently. Parents should insist that everyone hang their shoes as soon as they take them off. This eliminates the line of shoes scattered across the house and makes shoes easy to find as the family is scrambling to get out of the door. If the kids don’t hang their shoes, they lose the shoes or a privilege. Remind children consistently and the kids will begin to hang their shoes automatically.

7. Keep the bathrooms tidy. Wipe down the bathrooms daily or the mess can become daunting; at a minimum put clothes in the hamper and hang wet towels. If the sinks, toilets, tubs and mirrors are quickly wiped clean daily there is less need for a massive and exhaustive cleaning. Make sure that the children have their own towel racks to hang wet towels on and hampers in the bathroom. If there aren’t enough towel racks the towels will end up being thrown on the floor and can’t be reused. Wet towels on the floor lead to extra laundry.

8. Sort the mail. Sort the mail daily and immediately throw away all junk mail. Open the bills, remove the actual bill and return envelope, and throw away everything unnecessary remaining in the bill envelope. Place all bills in a folder marked “Bills to be Paid” and keep the folder next to the computer and/or checkbook. Keep a roll of stamps, plain white envelopes, a pen and a wastebasket within reach. Pay the bills on the same day every month.

9. Dispose of broken, empty and out of date items. Out of order telephones, obsolete computers and electronics, toys missing pieces, unused or out-of-date cosmetics, broken appliances etc. all need to be thrown away. Sometimes these items are stored in the hope of finding, fixing, mending, combining or selling. Often what happens is the useless item ends up gathering dust and taking up precious space. Throw away the unsalvageable and donate the salvageable. Take one Saturday every two or three months and go through the closets, drawers, attic, basement and garage and collect the unused items and get rid of them.

10. Use a large calendar to reduce stress. Posting a large dry erase calendar in a central location allows parents and children alike to know what is coming up that day, week and month. The calendar should have everything posted so there are no surprises. Set a good example and be on time to appointments, school, events etc. Teach children that being even five minutes late is disrespectful to those who are waiting. Tardiness adds to anxiety and stress so being on time will help to calm down the household.

None of the above habits are difficult to implement, and each one on its own will help make the job of parenting more manageable. You don’t need to put everything in place at one time. Consider making one change every week. That way, within three months you will enjoy more control, free time to devote to children, and peace and quiet.

Here is your book “Tomorrow a Better Day”

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Click on the attachment to download this book. Thanks, and enjoy!