Posts Tagged ‘Parenting Advice’

4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

Even though she just turned two in January, we’ve been attempting to potty train my youngest daughter. She’s been fascinated by all things potty-related for months now, and the other kids that her babysitter watches are either potty trained or in the process. So when the babysitter asked for Pull-Ups, it only made sense.

Except – UGH. Potty training is kind of the worst. (I mean, not the literal WORST. I’m not clueless, you guys. But it’s up there on my list of Bad Things I Don’t Like At All right now.)

This lovely stage has its positives, of course, just like any stage in life. Seeing my toddler beam when she has a potty success is pretty awesome, and so is hearing her chant, “Mommy proud of me. Daddy proud of me. Sissy proud of me. Grandpa proud of me. Who else proud of me?” And as I talked about the torture that is potty training with some friends today, I realized that this annoying parenting project has reminded me a few things — things that are true about life in general, not just for parents and not just about potty training.

It’s reminded me of truths that are encouraging no matter what challenging season you’re facing, so I thought I’d share them with you today.

4 Things Potty Training Reminded Me About Life

1. A sense of humor goes a long way. I don’t care how old you are or how mature you fancy yourself, the truth is that poop is funny. And so are naked toddlers, potty dances, and all the many ways we beg and bribe our kids to just use the darned toilet.

But bathroom matters aren’t the only awkward or difficult things we can laugh about. When my husband and I can laugh together, we are automatically closer and less likely to argue (or more likely to resolve those arguments quickly). And sometimes when my oldest daughter drives me to the point of pulling out my hair, the only thing to break the tension is a joke or a funny face.

Sometimes life is hard and challenging and serious. It is. But other times we make things harder than they have to be, and a little humor can go a long way toward helping us get through a rough time.

2. Your kids are not the enemy. Just like I have to remind myself that my husband and I are on the same team, rather than fighting against each other, I occasionally need to remember that my children are not actually plotting against me. Yes, they often foil my efforts at organization, timeliness, cleanliness, being well-rested or having family fun time, but they are not the enemy.

Remembering that the people I’m dealing with – whether it’s my husband, my children, my co-workers, my friends or my extended family – are not out to get me is a game changer for me. When I step out of the role of victim and realize that, “Hey, they aren’t even THINKING about me, much less planning my demise!” I can see things much more clearly. And that’s the truth, you know? In most cases people are not sitting around, coming up with ways to ruin our days or our lives. They’re not making lists of ideas for irritating us or insulting us. They’re just living their lives — their lives that sometimes don’t look the way we want them to and might even affect us in less than ideal ways.

My daughter — brace yourselves for some TMI [too much information] here — is partially potty trained. She’s all over using the toilet for one bathroom function, but refuses to use it for the other one. [Is that too vague? Should I use the terms “number one” and “number two”? Oh my word, who thought it would be a good idea to use potty training as a metaphor for life???]

ANYWAY. The point is that, so far, she has not cooperated for the most disgusting of her potty business, and it’s made me so upset. But she’s not trying to hurt me. She’s not doing it to inconvenience me or gross me out. She’s just trying to learn how to be a person, and sometimes being a person (especially a little person who potties in the right way in the right place) is hard. She’s not the enemy, and we are in this battle together.

3. Everybody (and nobody) has the answer. Oh my, have I been reminded of this one! I knew I was feeling desperate about this potty training business when I resorted to asking for advice on Facebook. (I KNOW. Why would I ever do that?!) All the answers I received were actually kind, but WOW were they diverse! Everybody had an idea or an opinion or some insight, but at the end of the day, I’ve come to realize that absolutely nobody has the exact answer for my family.

Which is so true about every single situation we face. This world is not lacking for opinions. And crowd-sourcing is a great way to learn those ideas and beliefs, as well as to find some new ideas and suggestions that might help you out. But the truth is that nobody knows exactly what you need — so the best thing to look for are those friends who say, “I don’t know how to fix this, but I will sit here with you.” I love those kinds of friends, don’t you?

4. This season won’t last forever. It won’t. Just like our physical therapist assured me that my oldest daughter would learn to walk and that she wouldn’t crawl into her kindergarten class (she didn’t), I know my youngest won’t graduate from high school wearing training pants. And I know that someday I might even long for these days when she needed me so much — but let’s be honest; right now I’m just grateful this phase of lifting her onto the toilet every 20 minutes is temporary!

Side note: Tonight I pulled out the book I ordered to read with my older daughter. The one about the birds and the bees, you guys. CLEARLY the season of potty dances and pigtails did not last forever!!!

And this is one of the most encouraging lessons I have learned as an adult:

Our lives are made of seasons, and they do not last forever.

Each season has its beauty and its gifts, but some of those seasons are hard or frustrating or depressing or challenging or disappointing — or sometimes all of the above! But no matter how dark the days are, we can find a glimmer of hope by remembering that this season won’t last forever.

You might be a million miles away from the potty training stage of life. You might not have kids at home, or perhaps you have kids with special needs who will never be potty trained. Changing diapers might seem like the smallest of irritations compared to the challenge you’re facing today. I know. Maybe your tough situation is one I can’t even imagine, much less list out in a blog post.

Even so, I hope you are encouraged to remember at least one of these truths that I’ve learned from – of all things – potty training. This won’t last forever. You can do this. And when you do? When you make it through to the other side, when you see the sun again and begin finding the humor again? Go ahead and do the potty dance. It really does work for celebrating all sorts of success and survival!

 

How to Raise an Uncommon Kid Today

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

I am so happy to have the amazing Sami Cone sharing with us today tips to help us raise uncommon kids! She is one of my dearest friends in the blogging community and I know we can learn so much from her! 

How to raise an uncommon kid today

Everyone knows raising kids isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still hope to see change, improvement and potential in our parenting…and hope to see it quickly! The problem comes when we expect change in our children without first turning the mirror of change on ourselves as parents.

Before we can ever hope to raise uncommon kids, we must first be uncommon ourselves. (Click to Tweet)

The biggest issue I come across in parenting is that we somehow expect our kids to care about people and issues they know nothing about on the other side of the world, while not showing them how to love and care about the people right under their roof.

In my book, Raising Uncommon Kids, I share twelve characteristics that we need to embody as families before we can expect our kids to truly become compassionate. But how can we put these principles into practice? After all, speaking in theoretical terms only gets so far with our kids.

For our kids to care about others:

  • They need to know there are others to care about.
  • They need to understand the world doesn’t revolve around them.
  • They need to believe they can make a difference not just in the world, but in their neighborhood and most importantly inside their own homes.

Your kids may say they feel loved and I’d bet they’d even admit they love you and their siblings, but do they show it? Before we can be compassionate towards others, we need to practice within the fours walls of our home.

Actions speak louder than words, so let’s start today by learning 5 practical steps anyone can take to raise uncommon kids.

5 things you can do TODAY to start raising uncommon kids

1. Create a family mission statement. Once you do, display it prominently in your home where every member of your family can not only see it, but refer back to it often.

2. Re-design your home. Go through each room of your house and have each family member call out the thing they like most about that space, whether tangible or intangible. Strive to make everyone’s voice heard and represented in some way.

3. Parents switch roles with kids for a day. Want to help your kids experience what it’s really like to be you? Switch roles with them for a day. While children are typically thrilled at the prospect of ordering around their parents, the tides typically turn once they discover the new balance of work and play. Even if you don’t do this for an entire day, make sure to save time to celebrate the switching back of roles and debrief what everyone experienced.

4. Let your children deal with their mistakes. Don’t be so quick to clean up all your children’s messes for them. Think about it. It’s better to help your kids process their flubs while they’re living with you in their school years than to raise them in a bubble and then send them off to college without a hint of what the world will throw at them.

5. Encourage your kids to do one of their sibling’s chores one day. Explain how a simple act of kindness can break the battle cycle siblings often find themselves in.

Being uncommon isn’t quick or easy, but it is worthwhile. Knowing that you’re living life on your own terms not only allows your family’s heart to be full, but more importantly, fills you with the freedom for that love to overflow to others in need. When you model compassion in your own home, your kids will begin to understand what that could look like outside the walls of your home.

So what are you waiting for? Start raising uncommon kids today!

 

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 MomAdvice.com

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.)

ANYWAY.

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 MomAdvice.com

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.

selfie

 

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