Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm 'Grateful' for the Routine!

Happy Friday Parenting Enthusiasts!

First, a little business. A few posts ago I mentioned writing about red light behaviors and how to deal when your monsters go super-nova. I haven’t forgotten. I just don’t like how my post is coming together and I’m not in the mood right now to fix it. The upshot is, it’s still on the list. No worries, I’ll get there!

So last night I connected with my friend, who’s been having a rough year in her family life. Over the last 6 weeks, she made some drastic changes, including putting her kids into a better routine. It’s made a world of difference! She gets them up at the same time every day (school starting really helped on that front!) and has an evening meal about the same time every night. Fast forward a few weeks. The cranky kids in the morning transformed into well rested kids, excited to start the day. Mealtime meltdowns are at an all time low. And mommy “ME” time is on the rise, thanks to an earlier, more reasonable bed time hour. All of these benefits came from simply adding some structure to the day.

Along with my friend establishing a bedtime routine arose a ritual we both like to call “Gratefuls”. Gratefuls are an opportunity to review the day as a family and pick out a couple of things that made us happy. For example, in my house, we do gratefuls in my son’s room right before lights out. I lay on the bed with him, Dad sits on the comfy chair and his little sister runs about randomly while we talk. I also go through the routine again later, when it’s just her and me in her room. Last night, I was grateful we had a peaceful family dinner, with everyone eating and sharing. My son was grateful for the stories he and I make up each night, starring him! And so on. Some nights, the gratefuls are really meaningful, like last night. And other times, he just looks around the room and makes up something random. Whatever the case, I accept it, offer my own and move on down the bedtime road. It’s the routine that counts, not necessarily the quality of the content. And, heaven help you if you forget to do gratefuls! In spite of the fact he sometimes takes the lazy route, my son will holler about it just the same, should I forget. It’s that important to him.

So take a moment to look at how your family runs. Is there room for improvement on the routine front? Like it or not, kid respond to structure, and the more grounding you can offer at home in this regard, the better prepared your kids will be to handle situations in the outside world.

Happy Parenting!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Random Parenting Tip: Don't Buy Your Kids Stuff They Just Asked For

Happy Monday Fellow Parenting Enthusiasts!

Like the subject line suggests, random parenting tip coming your way. This one comes courtesy of Mary, a mother of 4 boys whom I met during a Body Pump class at the YMCA. During a break we were talking about our smalls and she offered this gem: Don't buy your kids stuff they just asked for.

Very early on, Mary set the precedent that her kids would not be obliged if they asked her to buy them anything while at the store. Any store. She would remind them before entering and would defer them with any of a number of tactics: "let's put that on your wish list" being at the top. Whatever the case, she would not cave. It didn't always avoid a melt down, and yet, she felt it minimized them drastically. With four kids in tow, can you imagine the racket with everyone begging for their own stuff? Mayhem! And financial ruin to boot.

On the analytic side, not buying them what they ask for accomplishes a number of objectives. First and foremost, it saves money and time. Second, it teaches patience. Third, it helps separate the wheat from the chaff in that if they ask for something more than a couple of times, chances are they really want it. If not, well, you saved the money and the space in your house. Fourth, it sets you up for success, for if you give that wanted item to them later,  "just because" or for some other occasion, you're the hero. And they learn that sometimes, you CAN get what you ask for, just not right that exact moment. Win-win parenting moment. Hey wait! That's awesome! I think I have a new tag line. Homegroan by di, helping identify the win-win parenting moments! Huzzah!

Thanks Mary for offering this helpful hint in parenting!

Happy Parenting!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

HomeGroan what? Please explain

Some readers may be wondering at my choice of blogger ID. Let me explain. I'm a funny person. No really, people have come to expect me to lift their spirits and make them laugh because I'm so darn good at it. I love to laugh and it's my personal mission to try and find the lightness, if not the downright hilarity of this thing called LIFE. This is my gift. And back in the day, prior to blogs and the internet and online everything- yes, I am THAT old, I made funny cards to send to my friends and family. On the back of these cards, where you would normally find the company logo, I created my OWN logo and used the tagline, "HomeGroan by di". So there you go. It's an homage to times gone by and what's to come!

Happy Parenting!

Preemptive Strike, AKA What to Do Before the Meltdown

So now we're in to the crux of the matter. Sure, it's easy to speak nicely to M1 & M2 when they're not behaving like their namesakes. It's when they could use a whole lotta cheese to go with that whine that you need an "S.O.S." toolkit. Add these tips to your arsenal and the sea of life will calm once more.

Today I'll focus on before the meltdown. Let's call it 'critical mass' or the pseudo-calm before the storm. Someone is starting to get edgy, perhaps this is manifested with some snappy talk or downright refusal to comply with simple requests. When this occurs, first make certain both you and the would-be monster are not hungry. Again, this sounds pretty, flippin' basic, AND YET you'd be surprised at how many meltdowns are avoided or at least minimized when a healthy snack or beverage is made available. And I'm just talking about Mom!!! So check everyone for a low gas tank and get something down the gullet. STAT.

Second, does anyone need a nap? It probably goes without saying that Mom could use some extra zzz's and I wish I could wave my magic wand and give you the hour of down time you richly deserve. My son stopped napping at around 18 months. This was an unpleasant shock as I really depended on that time to reconnect with myself. So I implemented 'quiet time'. This has evolved over the last 2 years, yet the essence remains the same. I rest and he is safely ensconced somewhere nearby. Some days I use a granola bar, some apple juice and Scooby Doo to make it happen. Other days, I can bribe him to lay with me in hopes of earning a privilege or special treat. Whatever the case, if in any way I can find a break for us both, I take it. A little down time goes a long way in preserving the peace.

Last, does someone need a hug? I've discovered recently that my M's have become more readily upset and are more needy than in the past. Some of this could be 'age and stage' related, and yet I credit most of this trend with my return to the workforce. Whatever it is causing the uproar, I find that giving my full attention, heart and soul, mind and body to that little M, even if only for two minutes, works wonders at yanking them back from the brink. Sometimes, to borrow loosely from the Beatles song, "All you need is HUG".

I'll close today's offering with this: you'll no doubt agree it is a lot easier to parent a child who is not in the throes of tantrum. The more you can do on the front end to mitigate that meltdown, the better for all involved. Next up, some 'red light' behaviors and techniques for navigating them with humor and humanity.

Happy Parenting!

Following the Leader (that's YOU)!

The foundation for any relationship, whether it be with a parent or child, friend, co-worker or blogger is respect. Without respect, there is little hope for happiness. So it is with respect that I offer these insights, both light-hearted and heart-felt, and I hope it is with respect that this information is received.

Earlier I mentioned a quote from Albert Schweitzer, a theologian, philosopher, humanitarian and all around quotable guy from the old days. He said, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." I found this on a blog about designing your dream life which has to do with the Law of Attraction (LOA). I'll be touching on the LOA often, as it is a key element in what drives me.

Anyway, the crux of this lesson is that everyone, not just children, learns by example. Whether you like it or not, the people you hang out with, the kids your kids hang out with, the way you handle yourself in public and at home; all are examples that influence your kids. So the first order of business in being a great parent is to make sure you're doing you're level best to be a decent human being. I know to most this seems pretty dang obvious, but it bears repeating, early and often. One cannot discount how important it is that your kids see you being the person you want your children to grow up to be.

Treating your kiddos with respect means keeping your voice level and free of sarcasm when correcting them. It means getting down to eye level to calmly explain your concerns. It is refraining from negative talk and name calling and labeling. It's treating your kids nicely. Mind you, it is not the same thing as letting them run the show. Oh no, my friend, Mommy still holds the reins. She just does it firmly and lovingly. For example: I expect my kids to use their manners- say please and thank you, cover their coughs and sneezes, say "I'm sorry" and "Excuse me" at the appropriate moments. The only way they're going to learn this stuff is to see it modeled for them by you and those around them. It's hard sometimes. Kids have a knack for driving their parents (especially Mom) bonkers, and when I'm bonkers, my manners, calm and good intentions all go right out the window. These "test" moments are when it's especially important to maintain the 'example'. How you handle yourself in when things have gone to heck in a hand-basket is watershed territory with the smalls.

So how do you handle or try to avoid those moments? Now that I've laid the groundwork of respect, I'll offer a few choice tidbits on leading by example, even in crisis.  Next time!

Happy Parenting!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Introducing M1 and M2, AKA Mommy's 1st and 2nd Cherubs

I'm a working mom. It hasn't always been this way. Interestingly, when I conceived of having children- get it, 'conceived'?, too funny- I imagined going right back to work after maternity leave ended. "I'm not designed for the SAHM (stay at home mom) thing" I told myself. And so, when the time came to actually start my family, I went with that belief. It worked approximately 2.2 seconds, because, as luck would have it, I was laid off just months before my first born was conceived. So then the plan became staying home with them at least until they started school. As the economy would have it, THAT lasted only slightly longer, about 3 1/2 years.

And here I am. Thankful to have a job. Thankful to have a great family. Excited to offer my take on parenting, which is a combo platter taken from "Happiest Toddler on the Block", "Parenting with Love and Logic" and a host of other sources that together serve up a healthy dose of humor, heart and help.

M1 and M2 are how I lovingly refer to my children, a 3 1/2 year old son and a 21 month old daughter. My husband gave them that moniker after one particularly difficult bedtime: Monster 1 and Monster 2. Of course, if they should ever ask, it means 'Mommy's 1st Cherub and Mommy's 2nd Cherub'. Let's not fool ourselves though, children can imitate the best of the monster crowd, no doubt about it. Which is what possessed me to add my .02 to the parenting blog universe.

I dedicate this blog space to presenting parenting challenges and offering hopefully humorous, helpful suggestions for managing those challenges. Some days will be devoted to more serious issues, and yet, finding the lighter side of said situations can often make the difference in how one addresses them.

For better or 'worse', we love our kids. We want the best for them and to get the best out of them. I sincerely hope the information found here will be part of what helps make that a daily reality.

First tidbit to ponder and to get the ball rolling comes from Albert Schweitzer. "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."

More on that next time!!

Happy Parenting!