Archive for the ‘empowerment’ category

Why Choose Unisex Clothing – Guest post by Jenni

July 1, 2014

The benefits of genderless apparel on the general well-being of children

children's clothing can be gender neutral

Some rights reserved, tippi t via Flickr Creative Commons

It’s a sad reality that we now live in a world where parents now believe it’s acceptable to spend thousands of dollars on their children’s wardrobes. Sometimes mothers even end up spending as much as $170 on a single item of clothing that their kids will soon outgrow anyway, while they themselves end up scrimping on their own wardrobes, and even feeling bad about purchases for themselves.
There’s also a worrying trend emerging: parents dressing their kids to look like miniature adults – stylish, hip, and fashionable. But while it may seem tempting to dress our kids in the latest trends, is it really what’s best for them? Should LBDs become the next priority purchase for little girls, and high-cut sweaters for little boys? Or should responsible parents, in fact, start turning to something much more practical, like unisex clothing?
Cultivating a Culture of “Letting Children Be Children”
Katie Holmes often came under attack for letting her daughter Suri dress in clothes that seemed to be inappropriate for her age, wearing makeup and heels while she strutted down New York City streets. But the reality is that playing dress up is a long-established form of childhood play, and as long as children aren’t dressing in wildly inappropriate clothing or putting themselves at risk for hypo- or hyperthermia, then we should let them be.

Conversely, Angelina Jolie also received some backlash for letting her daughter Shiloh dress like a boy. “She likes tracksuits, she likes [regular] suits. She likes to dress like a boy,” she told Vanity Fair magazine. “She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys’ everything. She thinks she’s one of the brothers.” But this problem isn’t exclusive to girls either. Earlier this year, news broke out about a little boy who was taunted for wanting to dress like Sleeping Beauty for a schoolmate’s birthday party. Often, we end up imposing our own set of rules to our children, and forcing them to dress in what we think is appropriate.

This, however, shouldn’t be the case. Instead of basing our decisions for what our kids should wear on current trends, unisex children’s clothing designer Katie Pietrasik, founder of Tootsa MacGinty, tells Wales Online that decisions should be made based on the idea that “Clothes for children should be built for sturdier purposes than the changing vagaries of style – to be passed from sibling to sibling, or friend to friend regardless of gender.” As Clutch Magazine is quick to point out, while it’s nice to play dress up and photograph kids wearing stylish clothing, we have to ask ourselves, “are these outfits practical for everyday kiddie life?”

Unlike designer brands, unisex clothing is made with children’s lifestyles in mind. Comfort and practicality are key to unisex brands, allowing children to dress in appropriate styles, and still climb trees and play in jungle gyms. Rather than imposing stereotypes like “girls should sit at tea parties and play with dolls” and “boys should be little monsters”, unisex clothing encourages them to be themselves, and play at their own comfort levels. A child dressed to the nines in skinny jeans, a cropped top, or a little black dress may feel too intimidated to play at recess lest they dirty their clothes, but a child dressed in unisex clothing will feel confident enough to take on any and all of the day’s activities.

Let’s not forget that one of the most important things to remember when trying to build confidence in our kids is to let them make their own decisions. Sometimes, this could mean something as simple as letting them dress themselves, as Katie Holmes has often done with Suri. While her struggles with making sure that Suri dresses in clothing appropriate for the weather is all too real, investing in unisex clothing keeps these incidents to a minimum. Unisex clothing is easy to mix and match, and key pieces can be worn at all seasons. With items being made from quality, sturdy material, and most of them even being made to be adjustable to adapt to growth spurts, spending $170 on one outfit for our kids should soon be a thing of the past.

WrittenbyJenni

Allow the opportunity for connection, exploration and “I’m bored

February 9, 2013

The weather outside is frightful today in New England. Many families are holed up. Some parents may be dreading a day of entertaining and refereeing the kids.

My suggestion is to treasure this day as an opportunity to connect. Spend some time together shoveling, making hot cocoa or cookies, or playing a game for a while. Get outside and revel in the snow together.

After spending some positive attention at a neutral time when the kids are not whining, fighting or complaining, go your separate ways and check in with them every hour or so. The younger they are the more frequently you check in.  Notice what they’re doing and offer encouragement by offering observations or asking questions. You can simply watch quietly and do not disturb a good thing.

Things might get worse before they discover the art of self-entertainment. Allow them to learn the joys of having a brother or sister. Boredom can lead to creativity. It is not parents’ job to solve a child’s lack of initiative. Encourage them by saying, “I’m sure you can find something to do.”

Remember the three steps to empower kids to self-entertain and avoid boredom:

1. Spend positive attention at a neutral time every day — at least 15 minutes. This type of connection can solve MANY larger behavioral issues.

2. Expect them to find something constructive to do independently. Allow them to do nothing and feel the stillness, even boredom. This is Zen! Do not solve complaints or bickering with TV or a video. Expecting them to find something to do will probably generate a mess. Allow it. Plan on spending time cleaning up together. The blanket forts, spilled flour, and toys spread all over the floor are evidence of creativity, initiative and cooperation (if you have more than one child).

3. Encourage their efforts in a quiet, low-key manner. Just watch silently.

As I tell my kids, YOU CAN DO IT.

 

Family dinners are a the mother lode

August 28, 2012

I’ve just finished going over the manuscript for “Raising Able: How chores empower families” for about the 25th time to prepare to publish it on Amazon’s Create Space, where it’s available on Kindle and print-on-demand.

It has caused me to re-read the book, published more than two years ago. There are some great stories and examples to prove that family chores, family dinner and family meetings provide a solid foundation for your crew, for life.

YES it takes time to plan dinner and make it. Get them involved. See this blog post for ideas on how to make it easier. This photo of my gang on the blog along with ideas to make family dinner easier, especially as school starts and schedules start to collide.

Family dinner is one of the most important and powerful traditions. Here's the author of "Raising ABle: How chores empower families" sharing a dinner with her four grown children and their boyfriends and girlfriends.

The lure of family dinner never wears off. This was taken at our daughter’s apartment where she had cooked us dinner.

My tips to make family dinner easier:

1. Plan dinner in the morning or the night before if you work outside of the home. Make use of a crock pot, time bake and kids at home after school to put on the potatoes and make pizza dough.

2. Involve tots-to-teens in every step of planning, preparation and cleanup. Use family meetings to plan menus and volunteer to cook and cleanup.

3. Eat family-friendly meals and encourage and expect them to try new foods, within reason.

4. Encourage them to start cooking independently as soon as possible. Buy ingredients they need, experiment and have fun. Don’t complain about the mess! Compliment the chef. Eat their food with gusto. You’ll be developing confidence and a lifetime skill and avocation.

5. Learn to stock your pantry, freezer and fridge so you can cook from what’s on hand. Learning to cook from what’s on hand is an art, too.

Bon appetite!

 

A good Samaritan saves the day

August 6, 2012
learning to swim is a good safety precaution for all children, teens, tweens and adults. Make sure your kids know how to swim.

Ian Tordella-Williams points to the shoals where he rescued four swimmers in distress June 4 in N.C.

My husband Reliable Bob and I love the great outdoors. We’ve taken our kids on many excursions to canoe, ski, hike, camp and explore since they were young. We’ve faced danger because of abrupt changes in weather and water and bad parental judgment.

A close call in the ocean one day taught my son Ian to be more alert and aware around water.

While on vacation in Puerto Rico a decade ago, several of our older teens along with Noah’s girlfriend Kendra got caught offshore in swells and couldn’t get to shore. Kendra, the weakest swimmer, started to tire and panic. On the beach, Ian noticed the swimmers, wondered if something was wrong, but did nothing. He could have easily helped by going out with his surfboard. After everyone made it back safely and shared the harrowing tale, Ian, then 17,  made a pledge to be more aware in the future. That pledge ultimately saved four lives.

We made our kids learned to swim, and participated on a swim team, which is an excellent way to develop swimming strength. Ian, now 27, is an avid kite-boarder, surfer and former lifeguard.

Ian and his girlfriend went to a “Howl at the Moon” party June 4 on Bald Head Island, N.C. He noticed a commotion on the beach and left the party to investigate. That’s the first important thing he did — put down his beer to find out what was happening. This takes altruism, a difficult character trait to nurture.

Ian found four ‘tweens were floundering about 200  yards offshore. Unbeknownst to Ian, a 43-year-old man had already gone in after them, disappeared and drowned. Amid the confusion, panic and commotion, Ian grabbed a small cheap raft from the beach and headed out into the rough surf.

The last thing that happens before drowning is the victim swallows water and vomits it. That’s the point the first victim had reached.  She said to Ian, “Thank God you’re here. I thought I was going to drown.”

Ian ignored her panic and said, “Grab hold of the raft and start to kick.” They headed towards the other three swimmers 100 yards further out to sea, who were in the same condition, tiring and starting to swallow water. Everyone held onto the flimsy raft until the Coast Guard arrived 25 minutes later.

When Ian told me about the dramatic rescue, I was grateful he was safe and impressed he left the party and risked his life.  Some people asked me, “Are you proud?” As readers know, I’m opposed to parental pride, however, this is an exception. Ian did a good deed.  He showed good independent judgment, the objective of good parenting. Ian saved four lives. Wow. That makes me happy at the man Ian has become, and even a bit proud.

What can parents learn from this?

1. Teach your children to swim. Water-proof them as best you can as soon as you can.

2. Beware around water. Wear life jackets at all times even thought it seems like a useless precaution. A raft or noodle can save the day.

3. Exercise caution around strong tides, big surf and changing weather conditions when outdoors with young people. The four victims had walked out onto shallow shoals, quickly swamped by the tide without warning.

4 . Share this story and talk about it at a family dinner or a family meeting. What could the swimmers have done differently? What skills did the rescuer need? Ian said, “If not for the raft, there would have been only one life saved.”

5. Don’t let danger stop you from enjoying the outdoors with your family. Being outside is invigorating, enjoyable and good for you. Use caution and good judgment and be aware of the conditions.

How chores & family meetings have changed everything

May 14, 2012
This young girl is showing the value of family chores. She is washing windows. This task gives her connection to family, self esteem and self-discpline, all of which cannot be bought at K-Mart or Wal-Mart. Yes, it takes more time for mom to involve the kids. Yes, the kids won't do as good as a job. Yes, it requires family meetings and encouragement. it's worth the investment in your family.

Love the action in this photo as well as the reflection in the windows. Appearances can deceive. This 9-year-old is gaining self-confidence, skill, self-discipline, self-esteem and connection to her family.

This post is from a mom in Ireland who read “Raising Able: How Chores Empower Families” and began applying the practices with her two kids. 

Somebody tell Hallmark that we already had mother’s day. It was a few weeks back.

We started family meetings in January. We have had a weekly family meeting for three months. As a family, we have cleaned out the shed, scrubbed the carpet, and had a stall at a carboot sale [flea market]. The children have cleaned the bathroom, washed windows, hoovered, worked a huge amount on the dishwasher, washed the dogs, brushed the dogs, cooked frozen sausage rolls with no help, lit the fire, made firelighters, and swept the floor: All since we began chores.

This young man is hanging out damp laundry to dry. He is doing a green chore, which is common in Ireland. Such a simple chore for a child that brings complex benefits, such as self-esteem, self-confidence, skill, connection to family and self-discipline. These are priceless. All through family meetings, family chores and encouragement. Mom does the chores with the kids. that helps enormously.

Hanging out the laundry instead of hanging out with his friends brings priceless self-discipline and counteracts entitlement.

We have gone bowling, had lunch in various venues, made trips to the playground, played cute family games of hide and seek, become expert at Connect 4, and even camped for one night in April in Ireland.The children have learned to work together and to enjoy their jobs. It was a joy to see my son busy with the hoover [vacuum cleaner] and singing a song. He seems to particularly enjoy telling the boy next door that he can’t  come out now because he has his jobs to do!

My daughter is 9, and she had never really done chores before. I explained to her that I needed her help, and that she had to work for our family the same way as the rest of us do. She likes when I work with her. She now tells me more about her feelings and her life. She seems so much happier since we put her to work. She likes to tell me that other girls are princesses. We are not princesses, we are women who are useful and the dad in our house likes us just the way we are.

As a parent, family meetings are hard work. It is totally worth the trouble. We are so much more together as a family, and I wouldn’t have missed that game of hide and seek or seeing that baby lamb at the campsite, for all the tea in China. “Raising Able” has given me the ideas and skills to make memories my family will always cherish. Thank you Susan.

This little guy is making scones. His mother is allowing him to make a mess in the kitchen. This is how children learn to cook - by making a mess. Cooking is not a chore. Cooking is a fun exploration by combining ingredients. Let kids discover the joy and excitement and satisfaction of cooking for famil members. Start them cooking early and often. Do not baniish kids from the kitchen.

This little guy proves that cooking is not a chore. Combining ingredients and transforming them into something delicious is an adventure that brings pleasure to family members. It will require parents to allow kids to make a mess in the kitchen. Go with the flow!

Me & Liz

April 30, 2012
Elizabeth Warren is running for senate against Scott Brown in Massachusetts. I support Eilzabeth Warren because she is pro-family, pro-woman and pro-99 percent. She stands up against corporate america for the common person. Elizabeth Warren will do what's best for working families and women in the commonwealth of massachusetts. She did chores as a kid and worked at jobs starting at age 9.

Meeting Elizabeth Warren at a campaign event in Harvard, Mass. on Sunday, April 30. She is articulate, dedicated and savvy.

We parents need to think “big picture” about what we want our children to become, and what kind of country we want them to live in. Elizabeth Warren, candidate for U.S. Senate, is a good role model for our kids. I heard Elizabeth speak to about 100 people yesterday in Harvard, Mass.

Elizabeth talked about when her father had to quit work because of a heart attack when she was 12, and how the most common cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is debt for health care expenses. Elizabeth Warren’s first  paid job was babysitting at age 9, and waiting tables at age 13. Her mother went to work answering phones at Sears after her father’s health problems. They gave up the family car and almost lost their house.

What most impressed me was her story as chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Everyone in D.C. told her the agency was necessary to prevent another economic collapse because of corporate greed. Next, everyone in D.C. told her she couldn’t beat the banking lobby and to give up. Elizabeth rallied grassroots support, and demanded Congress take a vote on the issue, instead of approving it anonymously [I don’t totally understand machinations of Congress]. She  won — and TIME magazine called her the “New Sheriff of Wall  Street.”

Elizabeth said the next war America fights should NOT be put on credit for our kids to pay off.

I want this kind of representative in Congress, who cares about families, children an education; will challenge big business lobbyists (who own Congress); and who supports health care reform. She is a state university graduate and will keep public education affordable. My four kids are UMass graduates, and I graduated from a state university.

Set an example for your kids — VOTE. Talk about politics and world affairs at the dinner table as soon as your kids can comprehend it. Take them to the polls when you vote. Encourage them to register to vote as soon as they’re 18, and to make voting a habit. Voting is like a hobby in Massachusetts because it happens so often. Remember to vote for Elizabeth Warren in November, and spread the word.

Power-sharing can defuse conflict in families

March 26, 2012
tweens, teens, school age, toddlers and preschoolers all need the experience of feeling powerful. Parents must learn to share power through "family meetings" "encouragement' and "mutual respect" as well as natural and  logical consequences. Power balance is important. Use chores for positive power. Avoid power struggles. there are no winners or losers, only competetitors.

Giving kids a little leeway can go a long way to make peace at home. Instead of scolding my kids for being on top of our van, I got out the camera. Children develop personal power when they can take risks, have fun and occasionally break the rules in life.

Here are some excerpts from a letter from a mother in Ireland who read my book and implemented many of the practices and an attitude of mutual respect. I added emphasis.

“Eating was a particular problem for my daughter. She is 9 years old and tiny. I, too, was a small child. Some days she did not eat enough and was hungry and angry. This was a huge worry because she is really into fashion and her paternal grandmother is depressed.

“I realize now that I was bullying my daughter and not eating my food was the only way she had of showing me her power. …She is enjoying her food without need for any further intervention. …

“I asked her early on after reading your book “Which is better, to be loved, or to be loved and needed?”

“She answered that it is better to be loved and needed. She enjoys the chores and we have bonded in a new way while cleaning the bathroom. I do the toilet and she does the bath and sink. I admire her work and she enjoys working with me.

“If I had been thinking about it until doomsday, it would never have occurred to me that this is how my daughter wanted to spend time with me. Your book gave me the idea of helping and my husband has used this stunt since then to get the kids working. They have clean bath and sink on their chore list from the meeting and when we work with them it makes it into a prestige job.

“I don’t know why it works, but it does. Prestige jobs and doing something unique to you are some of the best points in your book, I think.”

This letter blew me away because it connects the lack of personal power — a core issue around anorexia, and how to create personal power through chores. We are such flock animals, that we seek prestige any way possible, including by cleaning the toilet.

I hated sharing power with my kids. I wanted to do it MY WAY!  I didn’t like backing down from power struggles and feeling like I lost. I learned to quit showing up on the battlefield and occasionally let kids climb on the van with the hose. Some parents go to the opposite extreme and kids live on top of the van with the hose. This is too much power.

Find a happy medium to share power through mutual respect, trust a child to make decisions, listen to them during family meetings, do family chores together, and use encouragement.

Investing the time and attention in this will bring results. Parenting is not cheap or easy. It is worth the effort because it’s good for everyone.


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