Posts Tagged ‘Parenting Advice’

Teaching Daughters About Beauty

Monday, July 27th, 2015

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Teaching your children about beauty

In between the scores and commentary, the sports station played a few commercials. My husband was watching a little TV while the girls ate breakfast and I put on shoes. It was a typical busy morning and the television volume was turned down, so I didn’t think anything about what was playing until my seven-year-old walked into the living room and said, “I guess we can’t do that, huh?”

I looked up at the screen and saw an ad for a diet program. Confused and concerned by her comment, I said no and waited for her response. “I wish we could!” she said. When I asked why (although her dad and I are both overweight and could certainly benefit from someone restricting our food intake, thankyouverymuch), she said, “Because of my stomach! It sticks out!”

Because of her stomach. Because it sticks out. SIGH.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate my own body, and I’ve been trying to lose weight every day since I was a teenager. But because of my own issues, I’ve been diligent about how I speak about my own looks and my daughter’s looks. Careful as I’ve been, though, she’s still developing a little insecurity about her appearance. From crooked teeth to above-average height, my beautiful girl is beginning to notice the ways in which she’s different from others – and she’s already feeling like she doesn’t measure up.

It breaks my heart. And so this summer I’ve been working on how we talk about beauty and appearance and health, and I thought I’d share some of my strategies with you.

Teaching Kids About Beauty

Redefine beauty

The first way I’ve been attacking this issue is by reminding my daughter that “beauty” is more than straight hair or teeth. We talk about how our insides are just as important as our outsides, and I tell her over and over again that God made each one of us different (and how that’s a good thing).

And going forward, whenever she says someone is pretty or handsome, I plan to ask her why so we can have more conversation about what exactly beautiful is.

Focus on being strong and healthy

This summer is the first time I’ve heard my little girl talk about being thin. And while I wish with all my heart that I was thin, too, I don’t want her to focus on that as a goal for her own body. We talk a lot about making healthy choices and being strong and the amazing things our bodies can do.

We’ve also just started exercising together, and I talk about how it will make us strong (NOT that it will get rid of either of our tummies that stick out!). And thanks to a lesson late in the school year, we’ve also talked quite a bit recently about food groups and why some foods are healthier than others.

Find great role models

From the women’s U.S. soccer team or Olympic athletes to female inventors, politicians or philanthropists, it’s not hard to find female role models who are strong, smart, and compassionate – and beautiful in their own unique ways. And we’re not restricted to today’s women and girls, either. So many women in history have done amazing things – and what better way to re-enforce the beauty of being smart, creative and kind than studying those women’s lives?

Monitor media

Although I have reluctantly begun allowing my daughter to watch a few Disney shows about pre-teens and teens, her exposure to older kids in books, TV shows and movies is limited. My reasoning used to be that I didn’t want her picking up sarcastic or disrespectful attitudes a lot of those “entertaining” teens exhibit, but lately I’ve become more aware of their emphasis on appearance and fashion and [hold me] dating. And while those aren’t bad things, they’re also not what I want my still-little girl to focus on or see as most important.

Downplay sizes

Though I’ve started trying to teach my daughter the concepts of flattering and appropriate clothing (an endeavor that just might be the death of me!), I rarely mention to her what size she wears. And when we’re shopping and need a bigger size, I simply say we need a different size instead. Obviously she can read and knows the difference between one number and another, but as long as I can protect her from what often turns into an unhealthy emphasis on numbers, I will. Or, at the least, I will vow to never buy her a single piece of clothing labeled, “husky.” (WHY, Sears & Roebuck of the 80s, WHY? Why did you label clothes for big little girls with that word?!?)

Teaching kids about beauty

A few days ago my daughter asked if she could give me a makeover. Since I know what that means but we weren’t going anywhere that afternoon, I said yes. She got out my meager beauty supplies and started asking me what each item does, again. I reminded her that she could put foundation, powder, blush and eyeshadow on me – but mascara and eyeliner is off-limits.

As I sat on the couch getting my face painted (seriously. SO MUCH sparkly purple eyeshadow!), my one-year-old toddled around the living room and watched. As her big sister sneaked some blush onto her own cheeks and begged for “just a little more” pink lip gloss, she watched. Then she picked up a discarded Q-tip and started swiping it across her own eyelids.

“Ooooh, so pretty!” I said.

“Pitt-ee,” she echoed.

And I remembered how slippery the slope of beauty can be once again. So I followed it up with, “You’re a smart girl figuring out what to do!” in hopes that would balance out the time we’d just spent on the shiny and glittery.

“Smaht,” she said, and picked up a board book – and I decided we were doing okay.

How do you teach your kids about beauty?

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Saving Money & Sanity with Kids’ Clothes

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Right now my daughter’s bedroom floor is covered in clothes. Some clean, some dirty, none folded. Supposedly the piles are organized by type (pants, shirts, etc.), but it’s hard to know for sure. Probably because, at this point, I’m averting my eyes rather than staring directly at the chaos.

Sometimes, the combination of kids and clothes drives me crazy!

When it comes to laundry, we’re still figuring it out at my house. Overflowing hampers, piles of clean-but-wrinkled shirts, dozens of sad unmatched socks – we’ve got it all. So I’m all out of advice for dealing with the care and cleaning of your clothes. But more than seven years into this business of clothing kids, I have learned a few things that just might help you save money and possibly your sanity.

Saving Money & Sanity with Kids' Clothes

1. Learn to love hand-me-downs. Or garage sales or thrift stores or consignment shops. Whatever it takes to get your hands on a large amount of clothes for a little amount of money – DO IT. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a cousin whose daughter is a few years older than Annalyn. They’ve generously shared clothes since my kiddo was born, saving me so much money and time and shopping sanity. When we’re finished with the clothes, we turn around and hand down the good ones to another cousin whose daughter is just a year younger than mine.

Those clothes didn’t quite make it back for a fourth round, so my youngest daughter hasn’t received as many hand-me-downs. Still, we try to pay it forward by boxing up her too-small clothes for a friend whose daughter is a few months younger than Adrienne.

2. Find a quality brand you love. I happen to love Carter’s. I have friends who swear by other brands, but Carter’s is my favorite. The clothes are always super cute, fairly priced (especially at the outlet store!) and well-made. They hold up to the abuse of a little person (and my belief that everything should be wash and go). And I can find them in several different stores. Whether I’m shopping at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target or JCPenney, I can find cute Carter’s clothes for my kiddos.

3. Buy in season. I know. The frugal folks will tell you to buy clothes on sale at the end of each season. But I’m telling you: your kids will grow in weird, unexpected ways. And storing all those clothes is a pain. (And if you forget you have them until that next season is two-thirds the way through? Well, you’ll wish you’d walked right on by that clearance rack!)

4. Give your kiddo choices. As they get older, your independent and creative kids will develop opinions about their attire. Oh yes, they will. And that brown floral peasant blouse that you just love (and may have bought a version of every single fall since she was born)? Yeah, your darling daughter’s not gonna go for it. So, my advice is to give her choices. “Would you like to wear this outfit today or tomorrow?” “Would you like to wear the pink dress or the pink shirt and gray pants?”

I imagine this is an issue for boys, too, but as a Girl Mom, I don’t know. Boy Moms – what say you?

5. Let them dress themselves. If you dare. And possibly retaining veto power. I definitely have veto power at our house, but some of the other moms at our preschool let their kids wear whatever they pick out. I suppose this one depends on your tolerance level. Big surprise – mine is pretty low.

6. Extend the use of your favorite items. Sundresses are my favorite piece of clothing ever. Obviously they’re perfect for summer, but stick a t-shirt and tights under a dress – and voila! You’ve got a spring/fall outfit. You can also add leggings under dresses that are too short. As a matter of fact, I just bought an adorable toddler dress today for Annalyn to wear over her denim shorts this summer!

Boys aren’t left in the cold with this tip, although capris and peasant blouses don’t really translate here. But layering t-shirts over or under long-sleeved shirts can stretch out their wardrobe a bit, too.

7. Embrace the pink. Or the green. Or the polka dots. Or the Mickey shirt or the Dora socks or the monkey hat. Our kids are showing us their unique personalities and passions when they beg to wear the same outfit or color or headband  or ball cap every day. It won’t last forever. And all those people at the grocery store or gas station, staring at your pretty little princess or camouflaged superhero? They know your child picked it out. And they think it’s cute, too.

How do you save money (and sanity!) with your kids’ wardrobes?

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One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child’s Imagination

Monday, August 11th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child's Imagination via

A couple months ago I posted this on Facebook:

“Annalyn gets so into character when she plays make believe that when she says, in a panic, “Mom! Where’d you put our helium tank?” I actually think, “Hmmm…where DID I put that helium tank?” (Guys, WE DON’T HAVE A HELIUM TANK.)”

Now, believe me when I tell you that I do not take credit for all the amazing characteristics my daughter has. Just like her strong will and curly hair, some things just came with her. And her vivid imagination and flair for the dramatic are two of those things.

[I suppose I could take credit and/or blame for those things, since they certainly came from my gene pool. But it’s not like I intentionally passed on those traits anymore than I did my green eyes or seasonal allergies.]

However, I did recognize early on the benefit of encouraging my daughter’s imagination – and one simple trick has helped me more than any other. Ironically, it’s something I can’t do well in any other area of my life, but when it comes to pretend play with my kiddo, I’m all over it.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not always the most FUN person. I’m practical and grounded and realistic. I think fast and I’m able to see what will work and what won’t, and I have a low threshold for the ridiculous. This is exactly what led to a lecture from my manager at the advertising agency I worked at following a brainstorming lunch. That’s another story for another time, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly the best team player during that meeting. (In my defense, though? Their ideas were insane.)


My first reaction to silliness is to squash it, but that’s not the kind of mom I want to be to my girls. So as I’ve noticed my oldest daughter’s love of acting and pretend play grow stronger, I’ve worked hard to encourage her (and to be a little more fun). Though I mostly just reminisce about my role as Glinda the Good Witch when remembering my days in high school theater, I also learned a little about improvisational acting back then.

Encourage Imagination: Playing Dress Up via

When participating in an improv exercise, you should never deny your fellow actor. This rule is the cornerstone of improv and, while never denying your child wouldn’t exactly be a wise strategy for parenting, going along with my daughter’s pretend play every chance I can has become nearly second nature.

The first rule of improvisational theater (improv) is to say, “Yes, and…” Accepting the premise one actor offers (the “yes”) and then building on it (the “and”) is the best way a scene develops. This Mad Lib-ish strategy can lead to hilarious results – and a lot of fun for your children. For example:

Child:  We’re going to the circus today.
Mom: Great! Do you think we’ll see some elephants there?
Child: Of course we will. I’m the elephant trainer.
Mom: That’s right. That’s why we have elephants living in our back yard.
Child: Yes, and when it rains they sleep in my bed.
Mom: Sure they do – and they always leave peanut shells on your pillow!

See how much fun that is? And, at least at my house, a pretty drastic break from the norm! So even though fun and silly and pretend don’t come to me naturally, I’m learning to take that old theater lesson and put it into practice at home.

That means that these days, when my daughter runs into the house, jabbering about the fairies she found in the big tree in the back yard? I “yes, and” her. I ask her how many fairies she found and what they’re named and what color their dresses are. And, of course, I ask her if they can fly. And when we’re driving in the car, and she leans up toward the front seat and says, “Mom! Hand me the tools, please,” well, it usually only takes me a couple seconds to switch [mental] gears, realize she’s pretending, and pass the wrench and hammer to the back seat.

I’m pretty sure she’s not actually building a roller coaster back there.

How do you encourage your child’s imagination and creativity?


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Less Summer Selfies, More Self

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Less Summer Selfies, More Self


The thing I was most excited about when I got my first iPhone was the reverse camera. Finally, not only could I take pictures of my family, but I could be in them. And in them, I was. For the first time, the kids and I were in a photo together…a grainy photo with long arms and distorted faces, but I was in there. I loved getting to share these moments through social media and basked in the compliments. I no longer had to wait for my husband to come home to take a picture or lug out a tripod to capture a moment. We were there and we were in it together.

The thing is, sometimes in those moments, we get away from those moments. It is less about our kids, more about us.  The trend isn’t to post pictures of our kids at the park. It is mom at the park, the top of mom’s head at a historical monument on vacation, mom at the movies eating popcorn,  mom with her stressed face with the kids behind her.

A lot of mom.

A lot less moments.

A lot less kids.

This summer, I am challenging myself to less summer selfies, more self.  

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

Return to Being An Observer

You don’t need to be in the picture of a moment to know that you are there. If you want to capture the moment, turn the sound off on your phone and take a photo of your surroundings and your beautiful kids you made. Revel in the beauty of those moments and capture them as they are. Not posed. Not forced. Not necessarily you.

Ditching the phone altogether and actually lugging around that expensive camera you just had to have is also a great way to get back to being an observer in your life without the temptation to be in the shot. Although I love food photography, I struggle photographing my people sometimes. I am hoping that this commitment to getting back to being the observer will help me do a better job capturing those moments in better quality.


Less Summer Selfies, More Self


Get Back to Journaling Moments

I have gotten away from journaling, but I happened upon some of my old journals and scrapbooks from when I was a kid and it was a treasure box of memories. I reveled in capturing moments then and I always wrote everything down. I have let my blog be my journal, but I have those private moments that don’t need to be shared with the world that I want to remember forever. One journal that I got as a holiday gift is this One Line a Day Journal (affiliate link). In this journal, you can jot down one line a day, but on one page, you can look at a five year glance. It is a fantastic way to look at how you spent that one day out of the month over the course of five years. I want to start getting back to that and having these moments on paper for my kids. My worst fear is that they will never see or recognize my handwriting, as terrible as it may be.

I want to capture these moments, but not share them with the world.

Just them.

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

You Are Beautiful- You Don’t Need a Selfie To Hear That

You don’t need feedback from others to know that you are a beautiful mom and that you are doing a great job with your kids.  As I age, I find that we crave that feedback even more, as though our beauty is slipping. Perhaps, this is that midlife crisis business told through a daily selfie. We all work through these moments in different ways- I took up a dance class that makes me feel like I am five again as I stand at the barre. That’s my way of working through the aging process right now.

You know how you know you are beautiful? It isn’t by a million Instagram followers telling you that you are adorable, it is the work and the love you are giving to others and the reflection of that love in the eyes of your people. Giving to others is the biggest self-esteem boost ever. It is a natural high.

This blogging, it’s a tricky business. People want to see you, they want to know you are real. Brands want you to show off their stuff. They want YOU,  not a mannequin. And that is fine, for those business moments. I love showing off the wares of small business owners and helping support locally owned businesses. I share my haircut to hopefully get new clientele for a mom that is incredible at her job, I buy and wear a dress for another local mom who started her first small business, and yes, sometimes it feels good to be told that you are pretty. Who would not want to hear that?

The most touching thing I saw this week though was a Facebook feed full of beautiful words written and spoken by Maya Angelou. Not a negative word was said because this woman…she touched hearts, she shaped minds with her words, and she lived a life that I wish I could achieve a mere fraction of. She is beauty to me.

When I die, I hope that they won’t show a million selfies of me at my funeral. I hope that they will show a reel of all the people’s lives I impacted, including my amazing kids.

Because I want to give more self.

Less selfies.



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