Sunday, May 18, 2008

The 411 on Natural Colic Remedies

Any parent whose baby has suffered from colic can tell you that colic is one of the most excruciating experiences ever imaginable. Nothing is worse than seeing one’s baby in pain and not being able to help take it away. Finding relief for colic quickly becomes a top priority. There are many different colic remedies that may come to the rescue for your particular baby. Each baby is unique and may only respond to some or a combination of colic remedies. Unfortunately, parents may have to use the old trial and error method to determine which provide the greatest amount of relief for their little colic sufferer. One thing is certain…the days of “waiting it out” are long gone for those determined to find an answer. There is no need to suffer needlessly along with baby. If you’ve tried all proper feeding and burping techniques and baby is still crying, try the following list of the most effective remedies available:

#1 Music / Sound - Traditional lullabies, classical music composed for infants and heartbeat/womb CDs are very popular external remedies that relax many babies suffering from colic. You can find some particularly good ones at the SlumberSounds web site. Some parents have had great success by placing baby in carseat on top of running dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or near running vacuum cleaner. A gentle “shhhhhhh”ing sound in baby’s ear can work magic, as can soft whispers and humming or singing.

#2 Diet - Bottlefed babies with colic may show improvement if switched to a different formula, such as soy. The mothers of breastfed babies may have to pay close attention to their own diet to make sure that babies are not having negative reactions to certain foods. Try eliminating the following common culprits one at a time for a week to see if there are any signs of improvement for baby: dairy, caffeine, chocolate and gas-producing foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, peppers, melons, tomatoes, citrus fruits, beans and peanuts.

#3 Gripe Water - Be sure to check the ingredients before buying a gripe water. Many claim to be natural but include artificial ingredients and preservatives. Colicky infants’ digestive systems certainly do not need any of these potential irritants. Some gripe waters are not very helpful. There is a new, very effective and safe gripe water on the market called ColicCalm, which you can purchase online at Colic Calm Gripe Water. It has the highest success rate on the market.

#4 Warm Aromatherapy Bath / Massage - Add a few drops of lavender to a warm bath and follow with the soothing touch of massage. Focus massage on the tummy area to relieve painful trapped gas. You can research baby massage techniques on the web or pick up a book on the subject. A good one to try is The Practical Art of Baby Massage by Peter Walker. You can buy lovely lavender, chamomile and fennel massage oils specifically designed for baby massage on the Web. There is also a popular baby massage tool called “Snukkles” which may work well for you.

#5 Swaddling - Babies are often soothed when swaddled or held close to a parents chest and heartbeat since they are reminiscent of the comfort and safety of the womb. Newborn babies are soothed in nurseries with swaddling. Techniques on folding soft, stretchy blankets are easy to learn. Find instructions and diagrams online or pick up a book/ magazine on the topic. A good ready-made wrap to try is “Swaddleme”, easy to find on the Web.

#6 Motion - Walking, rocking and movement are very comforting to most infants. The good old rocking chair may be all it takes. Some parents have been known to push stroller or drive around in car until baby falls asleep. Try putting baby in an infant chest carrier or sling so that your hands can be free. Walk with baby facing down across arm with hand under abdomen, applying gentle pressure. This position is often referred to as “the colic hold”. Many babies like to be outdoors. Almost all babies love swings. Try a combination of the above to see what helps soothe baby the best.

After experiencing colic firsthand, it fast became this mother and educators mission to conduct extensive research on colic towards finding a solution. This article outlines some useful techniques including music, motion, swaddling, gripe water, and diet.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Better Behavior Wheel - A New Kind of Calm in the Family

There's a new kind of fun and calm out there in the name of the Better Behavior Wheel, invented by Julie Butler and her family in central British Columbia. In an interesting twist on charts and discipline, this versatile wheel can be hung on a wall or toted with you in the car and on vacations.

It's a way to get whole family involvement, and a little bit of humor to get us over the discipline bumps. Kayla Fay, publisher of Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet? says, "This is the proverbial spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down! Only a loving parent could come up with such an effective way to discipline children."

As the Wheel Turns

Originally, the wheel sprang from constant battles between Julie's 9- and 12-year-old children, David and Laura. With battles raging in their home, Julie and her husband decided they must find some way to keep the peace. Julie says, "We hated the atmosphere of tension that would invariably follow these exchanges. Our once happy home was being turned into a war zone, and it felt like there were land mines scattered beneath our feet. One night, in desperation, we called the kids into the living room and told them how upsetting their behavior was. We asked them for suggestions on how we could restore peace and serenity back into the family."

The kids were sent to their room to come up with at least six appropriate consequences for their next fight. David and Laura presented the family with consequences like:

Clean the other person's room Do dishes for the other person Make the other person's bed for a week Lend your favorite CD or game to the other person for a week Make a list of ten good things about the other person Hug and make up….

These suggestions were arranged around the perimeter of a board, and a spinner attached to the middle. The premise was that the spinner would choose the consequence for them, and they would hang the board in plain view in the kitchen. Julie remembers, "We crossed our fingers, and waited. And waited. It was amazing. Just the presence of the board, hanging on our kitchen wall, had an instant calming effect on the atmosphere in our home. Occasionally we'd see one of the kids standing in front of the board, idly flicking the spinner, checking it out. But the fighting had stopped."

Of course, the battle was won, but not the war. Ten days later, the fighting began again, but this time they were prepared. Says Julie, "We called them both into the kitchen, took the board down off the wall, and placed it on the table. They knew what they had to do. How could they refuse? They chose the consequences. They practically invented the board. It landed on the most dreaded consequence of all: Hug and make up!"

Once the fighting subsided, Julie realized there were other behaviors she also wished to curb. "It seemed like the kids were always leaving the lights on when they left a room. Or they'd leave the TV on when they went to bed. Why not make another wheel with consequences related to wasting electricity?"

Eventually, eight themes were added: Excessive Arguing Leaving the Lights On Not Putting Things Away A Job Poorly Done Stretching the Truth Taking Without Asking Talking Back Wheel of Just Desserts (rewards)

Forty-eight consequences and 16 rewards are printed on peel-and-stick paper with colorful eye-catching graphics, enabling parents to customize the wheel to meet their family's needs. Just cut them out and stick them on. It's very easy to make up your own consequences and themes.

Interestingly, Julie says the wheel lowers her stress, keeps the consequences appropriate, and removes parents from the "Bad Guy" label. In the past, she and her husband would have to repeatedly ask David to do something, only to hear him say, "I know." This would come to a boil, and in anger they would yell and exact a punishment too harsh for the infraction.

Now, the wheel does all the work.

"David, it's 8:15; you haven't started the dishes yet. I'm afraid we'll have to spin the wheel."

"But, Mom!"

"I'm sorry, Dear. It's really not up to me. Those are the rules we all agreed on. Gee, I hope you don't land on a really bad consequence."

Julie says, "The amazing thing is, we're no longer the bad guys. We can actually root for the kids as they drag themselves up to the wheel. It's no longer 'us against them'. It's the wheel that they have to answer to. But the greatest thing of all is that we hardly ever have to use the wheel. It hangs on the kitchen wall, acting as a watchdog and reminder."

What Else?

The Butlers' website, , shows some parents of ADHD children have found the wheel to be a wonderful program. That is great news for many! Every parent should work with their child's personality and decide if the wheel is right for them, keeping in mind that every program doesn't work with every child.

There are a couple of letters on Julie's site from parents asking for help with children who are completely out of control. One mother says her five-year-old "beats (his big sister), kills animals, curses, and destroys everything in his path." Another mother said her six-year-old adopted daughter has angry outbursts and goes in cycles. She wondered what to do when her child refuses the consequences and it starts another battle.

These are warning signs of something more serious than just a discipline problem. Often, young children and teenagers exhibiting these symptoms have a physical problem that can cause behavioral changes, such as infections, Lyme Disease and thyroid problems. Mental disorders such as early-onset bipolar disorder can also cause very similar symptoms and must be diagnosed and treated immediately.

In these cases, the Wheel would not be appropriate and medical intervention is needed immediately. For help, contact your pediatrician and look for information on these diseases and disorders on the Internet.

However, there is still a possibility that the wheel will be valuable with a child who is stabilized. Again, parents will have to make the decision to try the wheel according to each child.

The Last Word

Parents of children with normal behavior and discipline problems are encouraged to try this wheel and have a little fun with discipline! Bringing the whole family into the discipline decision-making is an excellent way to work as a team and come to a peaceful solution. The wheel isn't meant to exact negative punishment on a child, but rather remind them to pick their battles and mind their parents.

Teachers and parents alike will find the wheel very useful in classrooms and homes everywhere with children ages four and up!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How Two Quarelling Kids Helped Invent the Better Behavior Wheel

When David was nine and Laura was twelve, the battles started.

Prior to that, they got along great. Laura was always protective of her little brother, and he in turn, doted on her.

Perhaps it was about needing space, asserting independence…whatever the reason, it drove my husband and I crazy. It would start over the tiniest of excuses. One minute the house would be quiet, and the next they'd be shouting at one another.

"Mom, Laura won't give my CD back!"

"It's not yours. It's mine!"

"No it isn't. I got it for Christmas!"

"No you didn't. I did!"

And on and on it would go. Until, finally, one of us would have to intervene. And there would be a truce…sort of. At least until the next blowup.

We hated the atmosphere of tension that would invariably follow these exchanges. Our once happy home was being turned into a war zone, and it felt like there were land mines scattered beneath our feet.

One night, in desperation, we had a conference. We called the kids into the living room and told them how upsetting their behavior was. We asked them for suggestions on how we could restore peace and serenity back into the family.

Off to their rooms

Well, we didn't resolve anything on the spot. We sent them to their rooms with instructions to each come up with a half dozen appropriate consequences that we could impose the next time they had a fight.

The following day we were presented with a list of consequences from each. Some even looked pretty good. Examples: Clean the other person's room; Do dishes for the other person; Make the other person's bed for a week; Lend your favorite CD or game to the other person for a week; Make a list of 10 good things about the other person; Hug and make up….

We decided to arrange the consequences around the perimeter of a board, and then we attached a spinner in the middle. When you gave it a spin, the spinner would eventually stop and point to one of the consequences. Then we hung the board up in the kitchen, in plain sight. We crossed our fingers, and waited.

And waited.

It was amazing. Just the presence of the board, hanging on our kitchen wall, had an instant calming effect on the atmosphere in our home. Occasionally we'd see one of the kids standing in front of the board, idly flicking the spinner, checking it out. But the fighting had stopped.

Well not forever. It took about ten days before they forgot about the board and peace was shattered by another battle.

We were ready.

We called them both into the kitchen, took the board down off the wall, and placed it on the table. They knew what they had to do. How could they refuse? They chose the consequences. They practically invented the board. It landed on the most dreaded consequence of all: Hug and make up!

The tension was broken as they awkwardly gave each other a hug, mumbling apologies. We all had a good laugh, and life resumed.

Maybe we're on to something

Wow, we thought days later when there'd been no further skirmishes…if this thing works so well for arguing, what about some of the other issues that we seemed to be always struggling with. Wasting electricity, for example. It seemed like the kids were always leaving the lights on when they left a room. Or they'd leave the TV on when they went to bed. Or they'd take half hour showers. Why not make another wheel with consequences related to wasting electricity?

Well, eventually and inevitably, we ended up making consequences to cover seven different issues, or themes. Excessive Arguing was joined by A Job Poorly Done, Leaving the Lights On, Stretching the Truth, Taking Without Asking, Talking Back, and Not Putting Things Back.

And then, because we felt that extra good behavior should be recognized, we added another theme called Just Desserts, consisting of rewards.

We called it The Better Behavior Wheel.

It has worked beyond our wildest expectations.

In the past we'd often let behavior slide.

"David…it's 8:30. Get the dishes done."

"I know." From downstairs where he's watching TV.

"David. It's 9:00. Get these dishes done right now!"

"I know."

Until we'd get angry. And then the consequences would end up being out of proportion to the infraction. And blood pressure would rise, and anger would reign.


But with the wheel…

"David…it's 8:15…you haven't started the dishes yet. I'm afraid we'll have to spin the wheel."

"But, Mom…"

"I'm sorry, Dear. It's really not up to me. Those are the rules we all agreed on. Gee, I hope you don't land on a really bad consequence."

The amazing thing is…we're no longer the bad guys. We can actually root for the kids as they drag themselves up to the wheel. It's no longer an us against them issue. It's the wheel that they have to answer to.

But the greatest thing of all…we hardly ever have to use the wheel. It hangs on the kitchen wall, acting as a watchdog and reminder. It's mere presence has worked miracles.

We want one too

After sharing our experience with our friends, and demonstrating the wheel to them, we have received widespread encouragement to make them on a commercial basis. Ultimately we thought, why not? It's a great product. We know it works. If it can help others the way it has helped us, it almost seemed a shame not to make them.

We even made a Virtual Wheel - a download version that can be played on the computer. (This is my husband's favorite because he spent so many sleepless nights working on it.)

It's been four years since we had to send them to their rooms, but David and Laura get along great these days. They've both turned into wonderful teens, and we'd like to think that the Wheel shares a huge portion of the credit for that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Want To Further Your Children's Studies?

Being in a competitive world, the lowest qualification to secure a good job is a degree. However, a degree subject may be perceived as too general and the acquisition of a specialist skill through professional courses or a post graduate program may help improve employment prospects.

Before you jump into a specific course or program, do take a look at the following considerations:

  1. Studying overseas is better than studying locally? Well, we might not be sure about the education quality but in terms of exposure and character building, studying overseas definitely has its advantages while studying locally is more cost effective.
  2. Be prepared and plan your application. When do you want to start your course? When can you start applying for the course? Apply early to avoid disappointments. There are many different institutions offering similar courses. To increase your chances of getting a place on the most appropriate course for you, do not rely on getting on to one particular course. Sometimes, it is not easy to get the desired course.
  3. Where to get financial support? Family or scholarships? If scholarships, what are the requirements?
Hmmm...looking at the things to consider, we all need some luck for our educational and academic pursuits. Chinese Feng Shui principles denote that those looking to further their studies should place a globe in the Northeast sector of your home or even better, your children's study. The globe will enhance the energy for this sector and thus bringing luck to your educational and academic pursuits. Professors, teachers, writers and those involved in scholarly studies are also highly advised to display a globe on their study tables. Just twirl the globe towards you three times a day before 12am to enhance the luck of each day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

7 Ways to Survive the Start of the School Year

It happens every year. Just when you are settled in to the lazy days of summer, you are startled to find Back to School catalogs in your mailbox and bikinis going on sale in favor of turtlenecks. Your local store has devoted an entire aisle to pencils, notebooks, and lunch bags. Soon there will be no more long days at the beach, late nights watching movies with popcorn, or mornings free of alarm clock jitters. It’s enough to make you dread September, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With a slight change in attitude and a plan in place, September can be one of the best months of the year.

1. Practice
Don’t wait until Labor Day to get ready for the changeover to the school year. Begin pulling back bedtime during the last two weeks of August—around 8:30 to 9:00 PM for elementary school kids.

2. Lower Your Expectations
Major transitions equal disruption. Routines change and priorities shift. Allow yourself extra leeway when it comes to chores and tasks. Avoid scheduling appointments during the month surrounding the start of the school year.

3. Carve Out Extra Time
Clear the decks of added responsibilities so that you can get through the transition with less stress. Don’t sign up for your usual extra-curricular activities. Keep your family commitments to a minimum.

4. Motivate Your Kids
Preparing for school isn’t a job only for parents. The students themselves have things they must do to get ready. Make all the back to school activities, like shopping for school clothes, a fun family event. Devote the first week of school to getting settled and having fun as a family. Plan pizza nights and ice cream socials. Schedule extra game nights and buy a new puzzle.

5. Ask for Help
Reduce your stress during this transition. Enlist help to complete all the back to school tasks. Hire a babysitter to watch your younger children while you take your older children to buy school clothes. Ask grandparents to supervise school supplies purchases.

6. Set the Tone
Set a positive tone for the new school year. If you approach September with the kind of dread usually associated with prison terms, you can be sure your kids aren’t going to be too happy about going to school. On the other hand, if you show interest and excitement in what lies ahead, then your child will be eager to get started.

7. Focus
The beginning of a new school year is an important time for a child. The whole family should be interested and involved in the process. Express interest about the upcoming year, classes, and school friends. Share your school memories. Celebrate this new beginning!

The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time for a family. It’s a fresh start with new teachers and classmates, and perhaps even a new school. Planning for the best possible beginning to the year shows your child how much you care. The more effort you put into it, the more you and your child will reap the rewards.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

End Homework Battles

Ask parents what their biggest school year challenge is, and you’ll likely hear that it is the difficulty they face in getting their kids to do homework. With so many other attractive ways for kids to spend their time, getting them to buckle down and complete that extra bit of schoolwork can be like pulling teeth. As with any chore, though, there are strategies you can use to get it done and make it more fun.

1. Make Time for Homework
Fitness gurus have known this for years: you are more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if you do it at the same time everyday and make it an inviolable part of your schedule. The same goes for homework. Don’t leave it up in the air as to when homework will be completed. This only ensures that it won’t get completed until you have an extended argument with your child about it—usually one hour after bedtime. Instead, sit down with your child and review your family schedule for the upcoming semester. Decide where homework will fit in your daily schedule and make it non-negotiable. It is always helpful to anchor homework time to some other regular activity. Good choices are: directly after school or right before or after dinner. (Scheduling homework in the hour before bedtime is usually not a good practice since your child may be too sleepy to do a good job.)

It is also important to dedicate a set amount of time for homework. This will discourage students from rushing through homework so that they can watch the latest Disney video. What is a reasonable amount of time to spend on homework? That varies with age. Check with your child’s teacher. It is generally accepted, though, that First and Second graders should spend about a half hour on homework each night while Third and Fourth graders might need to spend as much as an hour per night.

2. Don’t Accept No for an Answer
A common refrain from students is “I finished my homework in school” or “The teacher didn’t assign us any homework today.” It should not matter that they don’t have a specific assignment. Homework is an extension of the learning that occurred that day in school, and what they learned that day can be extended in any number of ways. Students can read silently during their allotted homework time, they can look up information in an encyclopedia to enhance what they are learning in Science or Social Studies, or they can look at flashcards, practice math facts, and test their spelling. This is how to teach your child to be a self-directed learner. You will be giving them a gift to get them in the habit of doing this now. When they are in high school, having this extra study habit will bring them academic success.

3. Establish a Partnership with Teachers
Early in the school year make an effort to get to know your child’s teacher. Make an appointment to talk with the teacher in the first few weeks of school, so that you can express your desire to be a good partner in your child’s education. She will appreciate it, and you will be one step closer to a smooth school year. Find out what her homework policy is so that you know what to expect. It is also helpful to know how high her standards are, so that you can ensure that your child’s homework is acceptable.

4. Provide the Right Environment
Most people’s advice on homework is to set up a desk in your child’s room and make sure that they have a quiet and distraction-free work environment. This sounds very reasonable, but few people seem to be able to follow this advice. I know many students who instead do their homework on the living room floor, at the kitchen counter, or at the dining room table. It seems that some people work best when they aren’t isolated from household activity. If that is the case with your child, then provide a small traveling office for him so that he has all of the necessary items at hand and won’t waste time running around the house looking for a sharp pencil. With all the supplies nearby, and distractions limited to the general background noise of family living, your student ought to be able to concentrate on homework.

5. Set a Good Example
“Do as I say not as I do” is no longer considered appropriate parental advice. In order to instill the proper values in our children, we must model them. If we expect our children to be conscientious, hard-working students, then that is what they must see in us. Make an effort to show your child your work ethic by reading trade magazines and business books while they do their homework. Take out a pencil and write notes as you read. Investigate ideas fully. If you read something interesting in the newspaper, look up information about it on the Internet. Always be eager to learn something new. Sign up for an adult education class, teach yourself to knit, or write that novel you’ve always dreamed of. The more that you can show your child that learning is a lifelong adventure that requires their involvement, the more likely it is that homework will cease being a chore and start being an integral part of a life well-lived.

If you take the time to set up these parameters around homework, you’ll find that you waste less energy arguing over homework and making up for lost assignments. You’ll have more time and energy for other pursuits, and so will your child. What’s more, you’ll discover that the benefits of hassle free homework add up to more than just scheduling efficiency, they equal a better education.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How to Stop Bad Behavior Before it Starts

Coping with a child’s bad behavior, perhaps more than any other aspect of parenting, can cause stress, family disfunction, and a general loss of harmony in your home. Over time, negative behavior cycles can become ingrained in a family’s way of interacting with each other
1. Be a Benevolent Dictator
In today’s times it is tempting to think of our family as a small Democracy, giving equal weight to the wants and needs of every member. Families schedule meetings to discuss rules. Negotiation is a skill learned even before tying shoes. Rules apply only if children choose to obey them. Giving children lots of choices seems to be of paramount importance. Parents who operate these types of Democracies think that they are showing their children love and respect. In fact, what these parents are showing their children is that they don’t have the fortitude to do what is right.

This approach belies the fact that we parents usually have decades more life experience than our children, we have had more education, and we are more mature (hopefully). In short, we should be the ones in charge. Contrary to what children might say, they in fact, want us to be in charge. They know better than anyone what their limitations are, and if they are given too much responsibility, it scares them. Imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly put in charge of a small country in a foreign land. You might feel powerful, but I dare say, you wouldn’t feel secure. It’s like being the captain of a sailboat and not knowing how to sail. Eventually you would run aground.

Research has shown that in order to raise well-adjusted kids, parents need to be authoritative. Authoritative parents were described as people whose motto is, “I love and respect you, but since I am the parent, you have to do what I say regardless of whether you agree with me.” Taking this type of approach with your child ensures that they know they are loved, and that they will be saved from making bad choices because they have a parent looking out for them. Setting limits for your kids makes the world more manageable for them. They feel safer knowing what the boundaries are, and in knowing that they have your help to stay within them.

2. Consistency is Key
Choose a small number of rules that are absolute and stick to them! These rules should be non-negotiable and carry with them clear and immediate consequences if they are broken. In my family, rules about safety are set in stone. If you ride your bike without a helmet, you lose bike privileges for a week. No exceptions. This way I know my child is always going to wear his helmet, and I save myself the hassle of arguing with him each day after school about whether he can ride his bike without it.

A psychologist I know stated that the surest way to have kids who misbehave is to be inconsistent. By having limits that are fluid and that change depending on circumstances, kids spend most of their time with you testing those limits. They know that sooner or later, they’ll wear you out, and they’ll get what they want. So, if you want to be worn out day after day, then the secret is to be wishy-washy about rules. If you don’t want to battle day after day with your kids, then set good rules and stick to them!

3. Know Your Child
Every child has a unique style which includes their own set of triggers for bad behavior. For my son, transitions always cause him to become unglued. A temper tantrum always ensued at the end of play dates, the beginning of a school day, or the call to the dinner table. So, I learned early on that to avoid that type of misbehavior, I needed to be savvy about transitions. I give plenty of warning before a transition, and I usually sweeten the deal to make it easier. For example, I play his favorite music in the car on the way to school so that he focuses on looking forward to his songs rather than his nerves about having to leave the house and head to class.

Your child might have similar issues with transitions, or she may act up when tired or hungry. Your child might feel uncomfortable in crowds, be afraid of loud noises, or become easily overwhelmed in stores. By knowing your child’s triggers for bad behavior, you’ll know what to avoid. For those things you can’t avoid, you’ll at least be able to develop helpful strategies for coping with problems.

4. Know Yourself
In addition to being in tune with your child’s style, you need to be aware of what your particular needs are. It will always lead to trouble if you expect lots of peace and quiet after work, but your kids need your help with homework and a ride to soccer. If you are tense and irritable, it will most certainly translate to misbehavior in your kids. Busy schedules rarely enable parents to have a peaceful dinner hour, but perhaps you can insist on twenty minutes to unwind in your room before you join the fray downstairs. My mother made a rule that we couldn’t ask anything of her until she had changed into her jeans. That was our signal that she had decompressed after work and was ready to engage in the family hubbub.

5. Pay Attention
Children often misbehave simply to get their parents’ attention. Though it confounds adults, children would rather be yelled at than be ignored. Perhaps it is Darwinian—in the wild, to be ignored by a parent meant that you weren’t safe. Whatever its origin, this aspect of child-rearing can be especially trying. Negative cycles can so easily begin by a child learning that acting up is the surest way to get a parent’s attention. The only way to avoid this is to lavish love and attention on your child when they are behaving well. Enjoy their company and play games with them. Praise them with words and gestures often. Reward your child with special activities with you—not with toys and treats. If you sense that your children are acting up more than they should, then that is a sign that you need to stop waiting for your children to misbehave before you give them your attention. With all the love and attention from you that they need, there won’t be many reasons to misbehave!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Teaching Children Good Manners

Last week in my newsletter, I mentioned that my children knew how to behave in nice restaurants because they had been exposed to the atmosphere at an early age. My idea of well behaved might be different from yours, however, I think there are certain basics that are important and universal.

When my daughters were babies, we would take them wherever we went. If they began to fuss or cry, one of us would promptly remove them from the room/restaurant/market/wherever. Not because we felt their crying or fussing was a bad thing. No, it's a perfectly normal occurrence for infants and toddlers. We removed them as a courtesy to others who we felt did not need to be as tolerant as we were with our children's noise. In consequence, my daughters know that other people are not as wildly in love with their racket or with them as we are. Nor should they be expected to be.

As our children grew older, they were always told the rules of our outings, how to behave and to always speak softly if other adults were present. Sometimes, it's fine to let them get a little crazy ... just know your audience! If we are at a five star restaurant where many other diners have come to enjoy a gracious and expensive meal, would we expect everyone there to be enthralled with junior's vocal or behavioral outbursts? Would we really expect them to care if our child is having a bout with walking pneumonia and coughing uncontrollably? Nope. It's rude. And rudeness is basically nothing more than bad manners. If there is an emergency with your child, by all means don't give a flying flamingo about what others think. But this is the exception. Besides, children who are that sick belong at home, not in public.

Last night, my girls and I were in a department store. There was a toddler carrying on and screaming for more than 15 minutes when my younger daughter said:

"Now his mommy is going to tell him to stop because there are other people in here that don't want to hear it!"

Unfortunately, his mommy did not tell him any such thing. She let him wail and scream and cry, much to the chagrin and annoyance of everyone else in the store. You know what? As much as I love kids and cannot bear to see or hear them suffering, I disliked this kid immensely!

My reasoning is this: if our kids learn that they are free to trample on the peace, space or rose gardens of others, they will develop into spoiled and inconsiderate brats. And then who will like them? Who will want to spend time with them? Who, besides their forgiving parents, will be able to tolerate their lack of social graces and good manners? No one … except maybe another ill-mannered person who feels at home with a similarly clueless individual. Do we really want our children reduced to such horrible options? I think not.

We teach our children not to steal, lie or punch their brother in the nose. Shouldn't we teach them respect for others at the same time? That their whining and out-of-control behavior is something no one really wants to hear or witness, especially strangers who have no vested interest in their developing minds or self-esteem? A simple reminder of the rules, consistently, works wonders ... eventually. ;-)

Good luck. Kids need to learn manners and social graces. They will go farther in life if we teach them well.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

10 Steps to School Year Success

One of the most important aspects of parenting, is ensuring that your child gets a good education. School is a place where your child not only learns skills such as reading and writing; it is also where your child will learn about friendship, responsibility, and fairness. In short, school is a test run for the ‘real world’, and your child needs your help to navigate this complicated arena. When your child was a baby, you set your life around nap times and diaper changes,

1. Establish Consistent Routines
Take the ‘year at a glance’ approach. If you have a child starting first grade and one in fourth, one a musician and the other an athlete, then you must sketch out how you will achieve a balance between school, their activities, your work, and your activities. It is best to look at all of these areas at once, so that you can spot the trouble areas. Once you have the big picture, it is time to ask how you can set up a regular routine to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, including yours.

Early in the school year, decide which activities will fit, and which will have to be postponed. One of the biggest areas of concern for modern families is activity overload. Avoid it! Now that you know what activities you will be engaged in, decide where homework fits and set a regular time for it. Whether there are assignments or not, this should be the time of day that your child always does a little extra school work. When will you have dinner? If possible, make it at the same time everyday and expect all family members to attend. Don’t eat on the run! If you have to eat in the car in order to make everything fit, then you are doing too much!

2. Set Reasonable Bedtimes
Open any magazine in America and you will find a story on the cumulative sleep debt that Americans are suffering from. It causes accidents, ill health, and poor work performance. It has the same effect on young students. Without enough sleep, their learning suffers as does their behavior. Additionally, lack of sleep makes kids prone to getting sick, which means they miss school and get behind in their learning.

Avoid these problems by setting a reasonable bedtime for your children and sticking to it. According to Dr. Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., a member of the National Sleep Foundation, elementary age children need between 10-12 hours of sleep each night. She also recommends allowing an additional 10-20 minutes to that amount in order to account for the time is takes your child to fall asleep. Keeping these times in mind, your child’s bedtime should be no later than 8:30pm.

3. Learn to Say No
There are many demands placed on our time. There are after school opportunities galore: sports, music, drama, art, and more. Parents have an equal number of options for after work activities. Parents want to provide the best for their children and many believe that giving them access to numerous opportunities is the best way to enhance their learning. In fact, the best way to enhance a child’s learning is to allow them to slow down and think about what happened in class and to talk to them about it. This type of reflection can only come when parents and children have some downtime together. I advocate the motto: “Just Do Nothing”.

4. Limit TV
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I love TV. I loved cartoons as a kid, and I love sitcoms and drama shows now. But I’m careful not to watch TV to the exclusion of all other forms of entertainment. Kids are not as good at moderating their exposure to TV. They need the help of their parents to make good choices and to limit the time spent being a passive observer. Kids learn best when they are actively involved in what they’re doing. Reading, talking, exploring, drawing, building, playing—these are all important parts of childhood. Make sure that they don’t get squeezed out by too much Scooby Doo.

5. Encourage Reading
Research has shown that one of the greatest predictors of academic success is the amount of time a student reads. When asked by the parents of my students what they should do to help their child learn, I always answer, “Get them to read.” Books not only open new worlds and ideas for children, they build their vocabulary, improve their memory, grow their imagination, and teach them valuable thinking skills. Time spent reading is an investment in your child’s future.

6. Support Your Child’s Teacher
It is an unfortunate fact of modern day society that teachers feel less support from parents, administrations, and governments than ever before. This is a shame, not only for the hard working teachers who deserve to feel respected as professionals, but for the students they teach. Students receive the best education when they are part of a committed triumvirate. For a child to truly learn in school, all three members of the team need to work together. The teacher, student, and parents need to be all working towards the same goal with commitment and help from one another. All parts of the triangle must be connected for the goal to be met. Go against the tide, give your child’s teacher the respect she deserves and the support she requires. Your child will thank you.

7. Enlist Support
It truly does take a village to raise a child. Too often these days, however, parents find themselves struggling to do it all with very little support. If you live near grandparents, aunts, or uncles, ask if they can occasionally go to the soccer game, or pick up the art materials, or buy the new notebook. Very often it is the little tasks that combine to make parents feel overwhelmed. Spreading the small tasks around to willing volunteers may give you more time to focus on the important aspects of the school year. If family members aren’t available to help, exchange help with neighbors and friends.

8. Practice what you Preach
In order to make the school year go more smoothly, it is important that your child is responsible, timely, and well-behaved. You are far more likely to have a child who behaves this way, if you model appropriate behavior for them. If you are frequently late, often forget important items, and are stressed and irritable most of the time, you are far more likely to have chronic problems with your children—especially during the school year when time is tight. Give your child the skills to succeed by working on them yourself. Nobody’s perfect, but if you show that you ask of yourself the same things you ask of them, then you are more likely to garner their cooperation.

9. Plan Ahead
If you fail to plan, then plan to fail. Harsh though that statement may be, it often happens that you’d experience more success at school if you’d take the time to plan ahead. If you know that your daughter is going to appear in a play during the month of November, and that it will require lots of rehearsals after school, don’t enroll her in tap class and swimming. When you know that time will be tight, it also makes sense to speak to your child’s teacher in order to advise him of the situation and to get his help with scheduling homework. Always keep in mind what is coming up next week and what may be required due to the seasons. Getting to school in September may not be much of an issue, but what will you do when the snow flies?

10. Keep your Eye on the Prize
Being committed to managing the school year well takes effort. Keeping your family balanced despite all of the demands on everyone’s time can be difficult. All of it can be managed better if you always stay focused on your purpose. Your purpose as a parent is to raise well-adjusted children who can enter society and forge a good life on their own. They need a good education in order to do this. How to ensure that your child receives the best education possible ought to be the first thing you think about in the morning and the thoughts you keep as you close your eyes at night.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Importance of Mothers

Moms, did you ever question your value as a role model, caretaker, administer of hugs and Band-Aids? I think we all have in today's climate of "do more, get more, have more." Many of us work to bring home a paycheck and others work for our sanity. Have you ever wondered if your children were better off with the baby sitter than you? Scientific studies are beginning to point to the overwhelming value of a mother's love, hugs and support. Nannies, baby-sitters and relatives are terrific. They just aren't as terrific as Mom.

I have had the best of both worlds, I suspect. I worked a high-powered executive job until my older daughter was 2 and a half. At a crossroads in my career, I opted to "get pregnant and stay home for a year." HA! Little did I realize I was about to take a ten-year hiatus from my much-loved life! I didn't get pregnant right away, but, after having spent a year basking in the glow of being Mom, I couldn't bear giving up the care and nurturing of my daughter to another nanny, no matter how wonderful. I think it was the best career move of my life.

Well, ten years later, I am back in the work force and thriving. Yes, I felt bored much of the time. Yes, our family sacrificed the bigger house, fancier cars and vacations some of our peers were enjoying. But it was a conscious decision to sacrifice for the benefit of our children. We wanted our morals, our ethics and our life lessons to influence our children.

I think moms can work at home, be homemakers or work outside of the home and still be great moms. The most important part of mothering, I feel, is being there for our children. Maybe your sacrifice is going to work but spending your precious little free time reading your child a bedtime story every night, taking him to the park on Saturdays or chaperoning your daughter's school dance. What matters is our input, the confidence in our roles as mothers and knowing we are the best person for the role ... to understand how valuable we are to society.

Pat yourselves on the backs ... you've accomplished a miracle! There is no greater sacrifice on earth, in my opinion, than making the decision to be a parent. Know how important you are. Know that your children need you to be as solid an individual as you can be. Therein lies your strength as a mother, whether you spend all day at home or in an office. We are all exceptional women in our motherhood.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Back to School Feng Shui

Every school year parents and students dutifully trudge through the malls in search of the perfect sneaker or the cool new outfit for the coming school year. However, it’s unlikely that the new shoe or shirt will benefit them as much as a new design in the bedroom. That’s because a bedroom makeover will create new interest and energy – what feng shui calls “chi” – in the bedroom that will benefit a child.

According to feng shui, the Chinese technique for design and arrangement, rooms that have good energy, or “chi”, create happier, well-adjusted children. Feng shui theories suggest that for a child’s room to have good “chi,” the room must follow certain guidelines such as that they must be restful, promote good relationships others and generate good self-esteem. Perhaps most importantly, harmonious children’s bedrooms encourage good study habits and promote greater success in school.

What does it take to promote greater success in school? According to feng shui, the following seven tips are key to creating rooms that inspire kids to study.

1. The room has a desk.
It sounds obvious, but many kids’ only workspace is either a bed, the bedroom floor, or the family dining table. Every child needs a suitable study area in the bedroom that includes a desk, chair, and a lamp. Children with study areas are more likely to study. Better still, having a study area keeps all the school books and papers confined to the child’s room. Feng shui also believes it’s best for children to study facing the northeast, the direction of wisdom and learning.

2. Ground your kids.
Buy your kids a globe to promote interest in geography and to help “ground” them and encourage them to study. Add a globe in the Northeast corner of the bedroom, if possible.

3. Create an achievement corner.
Every child needs to have recognition for a job well done. A perfect way to gain this is to create an achievement corner on the South wall of the bedroom. According to feng shui, this is the recognition area and is a good place to pin up awards, papers with good grades, letters of recommendation, ribbons or trophies.

4. Hang a crystal in the Northeast corner of the room.
Crystals are used to make computer chips faster. Hang a crystal in the study location to create more “study” chi and to help sharpen the child’s ability to “process” or think!

5. Put your child in the command position.
Avoid having children face a wall when studying because this represents an obstacle. They should be able to see the door when someone enters.

6. Display maps and other educational artwork.
Maps are another way to ground educational pursuits. They encourage “worldly” interest and curiosity and they make suitable images for a child’s room. Avoid scary creatures, pictures depicting violence, or sad or dark subjects.

7. Eliminate TV from the bedroom.
Sadly many of today’s children have TVs in their bedrooms. This is a feng shui no-no because it can make children much less likely to study and rest fully. If your child doesn’t study as much as you would like and has a TV in the bedroom, ask yourself what is more important: television or school?

8. Shells and fish are symbols of education.
Conch shells and koi or goldfish are excellent symbols of educational success. Place the conch shell in the Northeast corner of the bedroom. Or, hang a picture of koi or goldfish in the Northeast corner. It is not recommended to keep live fish in the bedroom as water in the bedroom is associated with loss.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Teaching Moments - Top 10 Ways to Motivate Your Student

As the new school year begins, parents play a pivotal role in their child’s success. Here are 10 tips for motivating your student from

1. Stress "I’ll Make It Happen" words. Encourage your child to use positive, motivating words like yes, I can, and I will.

2. Minimize "Bummer Words." Avoid using negative or limiting language in discussions with your children. Some of the most common bummer words include no, can’t, won’t, never, maybe, and if.

3. Do the Basketball Shuffle with your child. Play the Basketball Shuffle to encourage independence and responsibility. Write "It’s in your court NOW" on a basketball, and place it in the kitchen or family room to emphasize how the entire family gets the school year off to a good start. Then "pass" the ball to your child to show how he or she is now responsible. Your child can "pass" it back when they need help. The basketball becomes a fun, visual and practical way to emphasize your child’s role in his or her education.

4. Thank You, Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin used the following process week after week for fifty-seven years and claimed it made him a better and happier man. Develop thirteen character traits you and your child want to work on together. Consider honesty, fairness, self-control, order, sincerity, responsibility, self-respect, and kindness to others. Each week select one character trait, and, as a family, work to improve this trait. Provide rewards to the family member who shows the most improvement. Continue the process until you complete all thirteen weeks of character traits.

5. Stress the Importance of Goal Setting. Sit down with your child and set goals for the school year. According to John Bishop, author of the workbook, Goal Setting for Students®, "Students will take more personal ownership for their education when they learn how to set and achieve goals and how to use these principles in the classroom. They will embrace your efforts to help them succeed."

6. Accountability is a Two-Way Street. Both parents and students need to be accountable for a child’s success in school. As adults, parents have to model responsible behavior for their children. Did you promise to volunteer at school, or help with the latest class project? Make sure you follow through.

7. Answer the "BIG" Question. At least three times per week have your child write down the following question, "Did I give my best effort to today’s activities?" and record their answer. If their answer is "yes," reward them. If their answer is "no," have them list two things they will do tomorrow to improve their effort. Writing this question on paper (instead of just discussing it) will imprint the words in their minds.

8. Help Them Manage Their Time. Have a family meeting to discuss the weekly schedule. At the beginning of the school year, it is easy to sign up for too many activities, events and committees. How many activities will each child participate in? When will you have dinner together as a family? When will homework be done? What chores are each family member responsible for and when will they be done? Create a family calendar in a centralized location to keep everyone aware of the day’s activities.

9. Make it easy to study. Create a study area that fits your child’s personality. Do they work best at a desk in a quiet area of their room? Or is the dining room table a better place to work? Does music distract them, or help them focus? Help your child determine the best way to study. Fill a tackle box with commonly used school supplies and keep it stocked. Prevent last-minute runs to the discount store by keeping poster board, extra notebooks, paper and other supplies on hand.

10. Define success—in your child’s eyes. Help your child define what success means to them. Bishop says, "Children need to know that success takes time; success takes planning and a strong desire; success takes setting and achieving goals; success involves helping others. Students need to know it’s their achievement, not ours."

With a few simple steps, parents can get their children off to a good start for the new school year.