Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ 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.

Kids have more time for chores in summer

July 2, 2012
Kids and chore are important, especially during summer when they have more time for chores. Get children and teens to choose their own chores at home during a family meeting to help out. Use encouragement, not praise.

Borrowed this wonderful photo from http://fabandfru.com/2009/10/kids-chores/.

Kids like structure. Kids like to feel connected and competent. Summer disrupts those opportunities at school, so parents have to work a bit harder to compensate.

Summer is a great time to teach kids good habits and life skills by involving them in what you’re doing — laundry, yard work, cooking, dishes, fixing things, or anything else around the house. The earlier you start including them in chores, the more natural it will seem. The younger they are, the more they love to help out. Ironically, the older they get and more skilled, the less likely they are to contribute.

We raised our four kids frugally — probably to a fault. However, they learned how to manage  money and avoid the debt epidemic. We didn’t hang-dry laundry when they were growing up. It’s an excellent kid-chore because the youngest kids can do it.

I created a hang-dry system near our washing machine to give up the dryer. It took some time to install and some help from Reliable Bob.  I saw instant savings in my electric bills since we’ve started hang-drying most laundry. I like coarse air-dried towels — they’re like a spa, and soften up after a few uses. Sheets dried outside have a wonderful smell. Usually I’m too lazy to go further than our little dry furnace room right next to the washing machine to dry sheets.

Here I am creating a new energy saving system that the kids got used to to hang dry laundry and save money. it's an excellent chore for kids to hang up laundry, be frugal and save the planet. Using less energy is what we all need to do.

I’m attaching a thick cable to the wall to install a strong indoor clothesline.

Take some time to set up energy-efficient systems this summer.  A work ethic, frugality and knowing how to fix things can take your kids a long way in life. Take the time this summer to set up green systems. Let your kids take apart some old appliances and electronics to see how they work and challenge them to put them back together.  See if they can fix things. Find appliance parts at PartSelect if needed.

Let them make a mess. Encourage them to experience trial and error by taking apart appliances, tinkering with old computers, cooking, growing seeds, sewing or whatever interests them. Investing in messes and chores plant seeds that will grow for a lifetime.

Allow transition time to summer vacation

June 25, 2012
college students are like lame ducks. They've experienced the freedom of college and now have to spend summer with mom and dad. Parents need to communicate with college students about expectations.

Close the door if you can’t stand the mess and let kids of all ages keep their rooms how they choose. You have bigger concerns on which to pour parental energy.

Most kids despise transitions. They like routines, the safety of knowing what’s coming next.

Give them at least two weeks to settle down into the new summer schedule, whether it’s more time at home, with relatives or at camp or summer school. Until they settle down, cut them extra slack when they are quick to anger, resist doing chores and squabble with you and siblings more often.

Expect less and show more patience during the two weeks of transition. You’ll be calmer by adjusting  expectations and having a plan.

If you have the revolving door of college students, have a family meeting or at least a chat about how you expect them to contribute, keep track of their belongings and communicate about their whereabouts.

The start of summer is a good reason to have a family meeting with kids of all ages to set up summer plans for fun, chores, routines and agreements on screen time. Figure out a way that they will self-monitor screen time so you’re not the cop.

Family meetings pay off in the long run because they engender every positive characteristic you want kids to develop. They especially promote the priceless gift of connection that eventually keeps tweens and teens making good independent decisions.

Whatever you do with your toddlers, school age, tweens and teens this summer, make sure it involves some outdoor time reveling in the woods.  Allow them to feel boredom without plugging into a screen. They will discover resource and creativity through boredom. It is a problem they can solve without plugging in. Remember the four most powerful words in the English language: You can do it.

How do you handle the big transitions around the school calendar? Do your kids act out?

Toilet training is similar to driver training

June 18, 2012
training a teen driver is about positive parenting. driver training is like potty training. The teen is in control like the toddler is in control.

Spend the first decade building a relationship based on mutual respect so the teen years will be easier.

In reply to a listener inquiry [proving I respond to reader queries. Bring them on!] here’s my take on potty training. It should really be called “parent training.” I failed and felt frustrated by the lack of control.Ah ha! That’s the lesson. They are in charge, not us.My first three kids potty trained by around age 3. Nowadays kids who speak in paragraphs keep parents scooping their poop until age 4. Ugh!

My fourth child decided to use the toilet by 19 months. Why? Because I had learned how to motivate a toddler through encouragement, to avoid power struggles and convince her it was her idea. She sensed I didn’t care too much about potty training. I knew how to share power with her.

Here are some guidelines.Toilet training is about establishing a positive parenting relationship between toddler and parent. Toilet training can be easy when parents let kids take the lead

1. The more emotion a parent shows around potty training, the more power the child can seize and use to manipulate parents. We all need power. Rudolph Dreikurs in “Children, the Challenge” calls urine and tears “water power.” Tears and pee are effective ways to get what you want, get revenge and demonstrate power.

2. Parents need to learn to share power. I hated this fact because I wanted all the power. I wanted them to do it my way. It’s a great way to fuel rebellion, and set the stage for sour teen years.

3. Parents are not in control. Toilet training is the initiation of independence. Parents can learn how to shine the light on the path without forcing them; to finesse a child to believe that toilet training is her idea.

To parents of older children, tweens and teens, do these guidelines sound familiar?

Let’s apply the principles of toilet training to driver training.

1. Mom wants to guide a teen to drive safely because Mom cannot force Junior to drive safely when Mom is not in the car.

2. A suave Dad will accept criticism about his driving from Junior and let Junior believe that  safe driving is his idea and he is a near expert on it.

3. By adolescence, parents have been forced to accept that we are not in control of a young person’s behavior. Teens must learn to show good judgement when they are 60 miles away, going 60 miles an hour.

Toilet training is a primer for the rest of childhood. Force will backfire. The toddler will prove SHE is in control of bladder and bowels. So back off. As an overachiever who succeeded by trying too hard, backing off did not come naturally. I bought a lot more diapers for the first three kids and more pretty panties for the fourth.

Some parents resort to bribery. Beware if bribery is your main method of behavior control because it will backfire. Some experts say to save bribery for the “big guns.” Toilet training could be considered a “big gun.” Potty training is about attitude, about using the first 10 to 12 years to set up a positive relationship based on mutual respect so the teen years will be smooth.

What worked for you when potty training? What did you learn about parenting through toilet training?


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