Archive for the ‘The Basics’ Category

Motivate Your Child to Be More Self-Reliant

June 10, 2009

motherclipartMost experts agree that the earlier children start assuming some individual and family responsitbilities, the easier it will be for them to “take charge” of their lives as they grow up.  The most important thing to remember, as you give your child duties and schedules, is to shift the focus away form the work and towards working together.  Do this by showing and stressing daily concern for all family members and their activities.

To motivate your child to help himself and others even more try to:

1.  Impress upon your child how much of a difference his help, no matter how small, makes in your life.  Do this by consistently and genuinely complimenting him when he is actively involved in some aspect of school or home responsibilities.  Encouragement is a key to self-reliance.

2.  Establish a home routine in which all family members have work to do.  Don’t just tell your child what to do.  Gently teach and reteach the specific steps in his chores.  If you pay your child for chores, stress that it is for being self-reliant and that we don’t do things only for money.

3.  Show flexibility about home duties.  Most children get tired of doing the same chores.  So, for example, clean your child’s room while he cleans your room.  Also, don’t nag about exactly when chores get done as long as they are done to meet basic family demands.

4.  Make home and school work as enjoyable as possible.  Designate a special pleasant area for homework and have your child help you shop for his own cleaning supplies, soaps, shampoos, etc.  Also, always schedule a special fun time such as a game or story after family work is done.

5.  Let your child face the consequences of being lazy or forgetful.  For example, late library books mean he has a library fine, not you.  Children do learn from their mistakes.

6.  Provide a scheduled time for free-play every day.  Too many after school activities will cause your child to resist home and school duties which demand self-reliance.


Trouble Finding Quality Childcare?

May 13, 2009

If you are in the Miami County, Ohio area and are finding it difficult to find quality, affordable childcare for your children, Child Care Choices can help!  They provide information on which daycare centers and at home care providers have openings in your area as well as their open hours and rate information.

Visit their website and search online for childcare providers in your area!

If you are not located in Ohio, but would like more information about the nationwide network of Child Care Choices, click here.

Conversations on the Go: Communicating with Your Teenager

May 8, 2009

Source: fact sheet by Jamie Seger, OSU Extension Program Assistant, Miami County

Clever Questions to Keep Teens and Grown-Ups Talking

teensIf you find yourself drawing a blank every time you have the opportunity to have a conversation with your teens, uset the following questions as ice-breakers:

  • What was the nicest compliment you ever received from an adult?
  • What was your first memory as a little child?
  • What does the word respect mean to peers at your school?  To teachers at your school?
  • How would school be different if kids made and enforced the rules?
  • Name someone younger than you that looks up to you.  How do you know that he/she looks up to you?
  • What’s the biggest way someone has made a positive difference in your life?
  • What are the best places to hang out in town?  If you could create the perfect hangout, what would you include?
  • Have you ever had a friend whom you later realized was a bad influence on you?  .How did you handle it?
  • Who is your favorite musician?  What do you like about his/her music?
  • What is your favorite family time together?
  • Do you think it’s important to have separation between church and state?
  • How do you know when someone is watching too much TV or playing too many video games?
  • Would you rather be in a class that deals with a subject you love with a teacher that is boring, or would you rather you aren’t excited about that has a passionate teacher?  Have these situations happened to you?
  • Describe a time when you gave something your best shot and it still wasn’t good enough.  Why is it important to give something your best shot?
  • What is the hardest part about school this year?  Is it homework?  Getting assignments done on time?  Test?  Class participation?  Getting along with classmates?  What makes that hard?
  • Was there ever a time when you had to stand up for something you believed even when your friends weren’t behind you 100 percent?  What was it, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • When you die and people are talking about your life, what do you want them to say about you?
  • Is it possible to have a world in which every person has equal rights?  What would it take to get there?
  • What is your favorite motto to live by?  What are some of your favorite quotations?
  • What is the biggest problem facing your generation?
  • Name three things that you really, really believe in that might surprise people.
  • Do you try to imagine how other people feel when deciding on an action to take?
  • Are you comfortable around people who are different from you?  Why or why not?
  • If you could ask any four people to dinner to have great conversations, who would you ask and why?
  • What is the trait you like most about each member of your family?
  • What does it mean to have personal power?  Are you born with it, or do you grow it, or gather it, or discover it in yourself?

Helping Your Child Succeed at Learning

May 6, 2009

You want your children to be successful in school and in life. You can start right now giving your children a foundation for success. With each of the following ideas is a list of ways you can make the idea work for you. Make a note of the things that you are already doing and the things you would like to start doing. Probably there is no parent that does all these things. But it’s good to pick a few things you can do with your children. You might even ask your children what they want to do. The key in all these activities is to make learning fun and interesting.

learning1. Make your home a learning place.

  • Show your children that you love to learn. Read books and magazines. Take continuing education classes.
  • Talk about things that interest you: gardening or building models or astronomy or whatever.
  • Sing songs together. Say rhymes. Learn poems.
  • Tell your children about new, interesting things you learn.
  • Ask them about the things they learn in school.
  • Have a set of encyclopedias in your home so you can look things up when someone has a question. Even an old, used set can answer most questions.
  • Keep many good books in your home. Some can be bought cheaply at used book stores or library sales.
  • Notice your children’s interests and praise them for what they are learning.
  • Talk and ask questions about things you. see on television.
  • Turn off the television and make quiet time for reading.
  • Limit the amount of television to allow for other learning activities, such as reading, talking, or exploring.
  • During meal times have family members talk about things they’ve learned recently.
  • Provide a special place for your children to keep their books.
  • Make a special area in your home for reading, maybe with pillows or a small desk.
  • Make reading together special by holding your young children close, allowing them to turn the pages, having them point at objects in the story, asking questions about what they expect to happen, or allowing them to tell part of the story.
  • Read and tell stories to your children. Invite them to tell you stories, rhymes, or tall tales.
  • Have your children read to you.
  • Put your children’s drawings or school work on the refrigerator or wall.
  • Have a special box or treasure chest where your children can keep their special projects and papers.

2. Plan family learning activities.

  • Take your children to the library. Help them pick their own books. Help them get their own library cards.
  • Take your children to ordinary places with you and talk about what you see. Trips to the grocery store, hardware store, post office, and bank can all be learning opportunities.
  • Ask your children questions. “How do you feel about that?” “What do you think that means?” Listen carefully to what they say.
  • Take your children to special places with you and talk about what you see. Many places are free or inexpensive: children’s museums, art museums, historic sites, planetariums, science exhibits. There are so many interesting places!
  • Have your children write letters. With very young children, let them tell you what they want to say, and write it for them.
  • When they want to start writing, let them. Don’t worry about misspellings unless children ask if a word is misspelled.
  • Help them write their own histories, telling about important events in their lives. Looking at family photographs may help them remember.
  • Encourage their hobbies that will help them learn and feel successful: building, cooking, drawing, collecting bugs, collecting stamps.
  • Provide a chalkboard with chalk.
  • Provide paper, crayons, and markers for drawing and writing.
  • Play games with your children at home, in the car, and while waiting in lines or in a doctor’s office.
  • Set a special time each week when the family can get together to talk about their family heritage, play board-games, or just have fun together.
  • Play follow-the-leader with your children.
  • Be explorers. Make a map of your neighborhood. Mark your house, school, and favorite places on the map. Explore new places.
  • Use your imagination. Look at the clouds and let all the family members describe what they see.

3. Start early and adapt to the needs of your children.

Birth to two years:

  • Even when children are very small they enjoy having people talk to them lovingly and tell them stories. Help them learn the names for things.
  • Follow their lead. If they’re looking at something, continue to talk about and explore what they’re looking at rather than change the subject.
  • Use everyday routines to teach children. For example, while getting dressed, talk about the names of the body parts and the clothing.
  • Give your children lots of opportunities to explore the environment through their five senses. Give them things to play with that are not sharp, breakable, or in any way harmful.
  • Take walks together. Play together. Play pleasant music.
  • Begin to look at books together. Select books that have sturdy pages that children can turn. Sing together.
  • Read books with animals and make the animal sounds.

Two to four years:

  • Talk in simple sentences with your children. Listen to their ideas without criticizing their mistakes. Talk with them about things that interest them. Children at this age enjoy silly rhymes, guessing games, tongue-twisters, riddles, chants, and secrets. Enjoying language with them is important at this age.
  • Help children recognize symbols such as restaurant signs, store signs, and traffic signs. Talk with them about what the signs mean.
  • Notice and compliment your children’s ideas. Say things like: “What a great idea.” “I’m glad you thought of that.” “I like your ideas.”
  • Play games with your children where they listen to and follow directions. Games like “Simon says” are good.
  • When you’re taking a walk together, take time to sit down, close your eyes, and listen to sounds. Talk about what you hear.

Four to six years:

  • Assist children in solving everyday problems. For example, instead of directing children on how to get ready for bed, ask them, “What do we need to do next to get ready for bed?”
  • Four- to six-year-olds enjoy imagining, talking about their ideas and feelings, and telling tall tales. Help them with reading and writing. Reading familiar stories with them may allow them to take part in the story. Let them tell parts or all of a story.
  • Provide children with writing materials and encourage them to make signs, to draw, to scribble, and to write.
  • Use everyday situations to help children understand math. Ask them to help you count. Play with adding and subtracting things, dividing things into groups, and other math concepts.
  • Act out familiar stories with children, Use dolls or stuffed animals to act out “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Three Bears,” or some other favorite.
  • Provide the props for them to play dress-up or store.
  • Help your children learn to play with other children, They can learn about sharing, taking turns, and cooperating.
  • Make books together. You can write the words, and the children can draw the pictures. Let them write as much as they want to.

Six to eight years:

  • Use home materials to introduce your children to science and how things work.
  • Let your children help you plan, shop for, and prepare meals.
  • Let children write, produce, and present short skits for family gatherings and holidays.
  • Help your children explore nature, whether it’s the backyard or a nearby park. Teach them about the environment they live in.
  • Give children small responsibilities. Put them in charge of recycling aluminum or feeding the pets.
  • Encourage your children to develop hobbies such as stamp collecting, drawing, or bird watching.
  • Teach children a craft like woodworking or sewing and encourage their creativity.
  • Take them on a short family trip where they can learn about their community through historic sites or about life by camping out.

As children get older, they can take more responsibility for their own learning. You can help them by asking questions, encouraging their explorations, and providing many learning opportunities.

4. Work with other people who will help your children learn and develop.

  • Build good relationships with your children’s teachers. Ask the teachers things you can do at home to help your children succeed at school.
  • Help your children be ready for the school day by being sure that they get enough sleep and a good break- fast before going to school. Try to make the morning routine happy so they’ll go to school in good spirits. Create a good feeling about homework. Encourage them. Praise them for their efforts. Set a time and place for homework. Provide healthy snacks for breaks.
  • Support your children in their school reports by helping them find and use resources, make models, and find interesting ways to complete assignments. Help them but don’t do their work for them. Doing their work sends the message “I don’t think you can do this.”
  • When you visit people with interesting stories, songs, or hobbies’, take your children along. Don’t stay so long that your children become bored. But allow them to see collections and workshops of all kinds.

You can make a big difference in the attitudes your children have about learning. As you learn and involve your children in learning, they’re likely to develop into successful students.

You can help your children by being understanding when they experience failures, too. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone mispronounces a word. Everyone fails in something once in a while. It helps children when you offer understanding and support. It discourages them when you expect perfection.

In addition to the ideas listed above, you can help your children become successful by helping them become balanced, healthy people. Other publications in this series, Principles Of Parenting, can help you make the world a safe and caring place for your children.

Source: Ellen Abell, Extension Family and Child Development Specialist, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University. This publication was originally written by H. Wallace Goddard, former Extension Family and Child Development Specialist

For more information, contact your county Extension office. Look in your telephone directory under your county’s name to find the number.

For more information, contact your county Extension office.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work in agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, and other related acts, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) offers educational programs, materials, and equal opportunity employment to all people without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.

Building Baby’s Brain: Ten Myths

May 4, 2009

“As scientists learn more…many of our old
ideas about the brain are being challenged.”

babyclipartAs scientists learn more about how the human brain develops, many of our old ideas about the brain are being challenged. We now know that a baby’s brain is not completely wired at birth. The basic brain cells exist at birth, but most of the connections among cells are made during infancy and childhood.

Here are some common myths about brain development:

  • What happens before birth does not affect learning. Poor nutrition and exposure to drugs and alcohol can lead to serious problems in brain development even before birth. A developing fetus needs adequate nutrition to develop properly. If the fetus does not receive enough folic acid early in development, certain neural birth defects can happen. A fetus exposed to alcohol or other drugs before birth may not develop normally. If the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the baby is at risk for developing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Babies with FAS tend to have heart problems and be hyperactive. And most FAS babies have below-normal intelligence.
  • The brain is completely developed at birth. Most of the brain’s cells are formed before birth. But the cells actually make most of their connections with other cells during the first 3 years of life. And even after age 3, the brain’s structure continues to change as connections are refined based on experience.
  • Brain development is completely genetic. Early experience is very important in brain development. The baby’s day-to-day experiences help decide how her brain cells will connect to each other. And if the baby does not have certain kinds of experiences, some areas of the brain will not make the necessary connections. Babies born with severe cataracts may never see clearly–especially if the cataracts remain for many months–because they could not see clearly as infants.
  • A bigger head is better. Some parents mistakenly think that children with bigger heads have bigger brains and are therefore smarter. But a bigger head doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger brain. And just having a bigger brain doesn’t make you smarter. Dolphins actually have larger brains than humans. And rat brains have more cells per cubic inch. Humans are more intelligent because our brains have been fine-tuned to be more efficient.
  • Brains get more active as they mature. A 3-year-old’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s. Why? The adult brain is more efficient. It has gotten rid of connections that it doesn’t need. By about age 3, the brain’s cells have made most of their connections to other cells. Over the next several years, connections are refined based on experience. The connections that are used most will become stronger. Those that are used least will eventually wither.
  • The brain grows steadily across childhood. The human brain actually develops in spurts. There are prime times when the brain is best equipped to learn certain skills. Babies and young children learn languages more easily than adults because their brains are still developing language connections.
  • We can’t learn certain skills after childhood. There are certain prime times in development when learning is easier. The brain is especially efficient at learning during those prime times. But brain development and learning continue throughout the lifetime. Learning may be more difficult once the prime times are over, but it can still happen. Adults are able to learn foreign languages, even if their learning is not as quick or easy as a young child’s.
  • Learning begins when a child enters school.Pre-kindergarten or kindergarten is the start of most American children’s formal education. But the foundations for learning develop well before a child starts school. The brain connections needed for learning begin developing even before birth.Early care also makes a difference in children’s ability to learn. Warm, sensitive, consistent care helps babies develop a secure attachment with their caregivers. Children with this secure bond are more ready to learn. Early traumas such as abuse can slow brain development. This makes learning more difficult.
  • Enrichment is only for gifted and talented children. All babies and children need experience to develop a rich network of brain connections. Remember that children learn by doing. Give your baby a chance to explore the world. Expose her to a variety of challenging experiences. Support her when she tries new things. Encourage her to be creative.
  • Children need special help and expensive toys to develop their brain power. What children need most are loving care and new experiences. But these experiences don’t need to be expensive. Talk and sing to your baby. Go on a daily walk and point out some of the things you see. Visit the library and pick out a book on a new topic. Sharing time with your child and exposing him to new things goes a long way toward helping his brain develop.But beware of overstimulating your child. Some parents are so concerned with brain development that they buy expensive educational toys, videos, and flash cards. But there’s no evidence that these toys, by themselves, will make your child smarter. Too many new experiences all at once won’t help his brain development. He needs time to process what he’s learned before he’s ready for something new.

Selected References:
Jensen, E. (1998) Teaching with the brain in mind.Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Shore, R. (1997). Rethinking the brain: New insights into early development. New York: Families and Work Institute.

Willis, C. (1997). Your child�s brain: Food for thought.�Little Rock, AR: Southern Early Childhood Association.

Part of the “Better Brains for Babies” Collaboration.Supported by the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences
“Strengthening Georgia Families and Communities” Initiative.The University of Georgia, a unit of the University System of Georgia, is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action institution. The University does not discriminate with respect to employment or admission on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap or veteran status. If you have a disability and need assistance in order to obtain this fact sheet in an alternative format, please contact the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at (706) 542-7566.

Welcome Once A Month Mom Readers!

April 28, 2009


I’m glad you have stopped by Parents in Action to see what the blog has to offer.  While you’re here, feel free to browse any of our posts on the front page, as well as those along the sidebar.   The goal of this blog is to spread knowledgeable, dependable, research-based information aimed at parents across the blogosphere!  But we won’t stop there – we intend to also include personal stories and experiences from parents who have “been there, done that” and want to share or help other families who may find themselves in the same situation.

Who is behind Parents in Action?

The Parents in Action weblog is provided by the Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences program in Miami County, Ohio.  We teach multiple parenting courses, as well as financial education classes.  We work with youth, middle-aged individuals, and seniors.  Although we focus on issues in parenting on this site, we are available to answer your financial, relationship, and even cooking questions!  You can e-mail Jamie Seger with questions or comments at seger *dot* 23 at osu *dot* edu, or stop by the OSU Extension, Miami County’s website.

Thanks again for visiting – I hope you find the information on this site very helpful!

~Jamie Seger

OSU Extension Program Assistant – Family & Consumer Sciences / 4-H Youth Development

Common Fears of Preschoolers

April 24, 2009

The 3, 4 and 5-Year-Old Child:
Common Fears

scaredThe preschool years are exciting times for children. Each day preschoolers learn more and more about themselves and their world. During these years children gain new skills, abilities and knowledge. This fact sheet will help you understand preschool children. It’s important to remember that the information in this post is only a guide. Children grow and develop at their own rates. Nearly everyone, regardless of age, has fears. Fear is a natural emotion.

What are some common fears of young children?

Fear of separation

Toddlers and preschoolers may experience many separations from their parents. Baby sitters come to care for them. They may begin day care or nursery school. Young children worry about facing new and strange people. They fear their parents will never return. Staying with your child for a day or more in day care or nursery school sometimes helps. He can get used to a new place, adults, children, and toys while his parent is nearby. He will feel more secure and let you go with few tears. Always tell your child that you are leaving. Sneaking out only increases his distrust and fear.

Fear of baths

Many young children worry about slipping down the drain with the water. No amount of talk will ease this fear. Children have to feel comfortable around water and they can do that by playing in water – in a pan, a sink and, finally, learning over the edge of the tub. Gradually your child will learn the bath is nothing to fear. Remember, stay with your children when they are playing with water or in the bath. Children can drown in only one inch of water.

Fear of dogs

Dogs are often loud and fast-moving. It’s hard to predict what they will do. No wonder so many children are afraid of them. Look at pictures of dogs and talk about them with your child. Watch a dog from across the street. Finally, pick a gentle dog for your child to approach.

Fear of loud noises

Loud noises from vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, saws, fire engines and ambulances may frighten children. Let your child look at and touch appliances in your home before you turn them on. Visit the fire station. Let your child look at and sit in the fire truck.

Fear of the dark

If your child is afraid of the dark, it’s okay to keep the lights on in his bedroom closet or nearby hallway. Over time, you can lower the amount of light. Some children decide on their own to turn the lights off.

Fear of change

Your child probably likes his world when everything goes along as usual. He may enjoy hearing the same story again and again. He may like eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day for lunch. Change can frighten a young child. An earlier dinner, Mother coming home from work late or an argument between parents can be frightening. If there is a family move, a divorce, a separation, or a death in the family, your child needs special help.
When crises occur, be sure to keep daily routines the same. If you know a change is coming, talk to your child about it. The change may be a divorce, a new baby or a stay in the hospital. Tell your child how you are feeling about the situation. For example, “I’m unhappy because Daddy and I fight a lot but I’m not mad at you.”
Children think differently from adults. They confuse fantasy and dreams with reality. They often think that objects are “alive.” They have difficulty understanding the size of different objects. Young children don’t understand cause-and-effect relationships. They feel small, helpless and unable to control what is happening to them.

All these factors influence their fears. Frightened children need to be told they are loved and will be cared for. They need hugs and someone to talk to. Never laugh or make fun of your child’s fears. Don’t get angry. Avoid frightening television programs and movies. Never threaten a child with the “bogeyman” or spooky stories. Protect your child from older children or adults who might scare your child for their own amusement.
Encourage your child to describe a frightening experience through play acting, drawing or using dolls, puppets or stories. Sometimes older preschoolers can learn to tell a frightening monster, “Go away. I don’t like you, and I don’t want you to come back.” This may help a child feel more in control of her life.
You can’t protect your child from all fears. In fact, some fears are a part of growing up and learning. For example, your child needs to know that the loud scream of the fire engine means, “Danger, get out of the way!”
Source:The 3, 4, and 5-Year-Old-Child and Common Fears fact sheet.  Developed by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Visit their website:
UNH Cooperative Extension programs and policies are consistent with pertinent Federal and State laws and regulations

on non-discrimination regarding age, color, handicap, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veterans status.

Parenting and Professionalism: The Myth of Having It All

April 20, 2009

Adapted from the article by: Robin B. Thomas, Ph.D., R.N.
Individual and Family Therapist, Seattle, Washington for

motherSaying no to a professional challenge was a skill I lost in graduate school and one that I am with difficulty regaining. Until the fall of 1989, my most formidable coping strategy, denial, was firmly in place. I wanted to retain the roles I had fulfilled before I had children. Although I spoke of making choices between career and parenting, I believed at that time that I really didn’t have to sacrifice either. I believed I could work half time, parent my children, be a part of the preschool car pool, bake for school parties, be a good partner to my husband, and continue the level of research, teaching, consultation and publication that I engaged in B.C. (before children). Clearly, that is not a logical or realistic perspective, yet I would guess that many of the women reading this continue to pursue equally insane lifestyles. Those of you who are partners to professional women have probably seen it in the women you love.

Still, I think it was easier for me to pursue all my goals than to admit that I had to give up something. It took time, frustration, and a second child to help me realize that choices must be made. I wanted to believe that I could have it all—family, career and time to myself. In a sense, I achieved these goals. I have it all. Two wonderful little girls, a caring partner for a husband, and a stimulating and demanding career. It is not the life I planned for or the career I was “groomed” for before I became a parent. I have had to put my career on hold, at least for now. I think often of the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.”

In the process of writing this article and talking extensively with my friends and colleagues, several themes concerning parenting and professionalism became clear (at least my qualitative research skills remain active). These issues serve as a frame for my relating the challenges I faced in adapting to parenthood. The themes include Paradigm, Painful Choices, Balance, and Consequences. The challenge of adapting to parenthood does not affect only parents. Our professions and institutions need to become more supportive of the transition to, and the experience of, parenthood among professionals.


Every person holds a unique view of the world, his or her paradigm. It determines how individuals perceive events, what they think about their experiences, and how they respond to family and social demands. While I share some feelings about parenting with other women, my models for parenting also differ in many ways from theirs. Each woman has a model for parenting, and this model shapes her decisions about parenting and professionalism. Several conflicting social and educational forces influenced my parenting paradigm. The first was the climate of the 1950’s and early 1960’s, in which a mother’s primary role was as homemaker. Ozzie and Harriet served as role models for parents and their children. A contradictory force shaping my paradigm came from my mother, who lived the 1950’s style but wanted something else for her daughters. She had been left a widow with young children and virtually no work skills. The message was “Be prepared to do it all”. This message was not uncommon for young women of my generation, who enrolled in schools of education, nursing and social work, preparing for careers in the “helping professions” that could, we thought, be combined easily with family life.

Another major influence shaping my world view was the blossoming of the women’s movement as I grew into young womanhood. The woman’s movement told us we could “have it all”, a career and a family, if only we wanted it badly enough. Remember Helen Reddy’s recording of the song “I Am Woman”, and the commercial showing a beautiful, energetic woman singing about her ability to “bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and still remind my husband that he’s a man”? (How did she do it?).

The fourth major influence on my parenting model was years of education in the field of mother-infant interaction and careerwoman3the family system. Researchers have now documented and explained some of the magic that transpires between parent and child. But it is not research findings, quite honestly, that are involved in my inability to tolerate the thought of another person fulfilling that role with my children. I know that from the child’s perspective others can offer her the foundation on which to build a strong self-esteem. It is my issue that I want to be the person who, for better or worse, provides the feedback my babies need to grow and develop. I don’t see this as an issue of being a good or bad parent; rather it involves awareness of my needs and desires to be physically present in my children’s daily lives. I have had remarkable good fortune in finding a child care provider who is a true partner in my children’s care. But despite my professional awareness of the importance of the children’s attachment to their caregiver, it took some time before I could observe the love between our nanny and my girls without a twinge of sadness, or perhaps jealousy.

These experiences and others contributed to my paradigm as I entered the world of parenting. I thought I could, and should, do, and have, it all. As a result, I spent three years trying to keep advancing my career while being an almost full-time mother. Actually, I did fairly well at the game when I had one young child. My first daughter, Katie, accompanied me on monthly trips for presentations, conferences or consultations. There came a time, however, when I decided that the cost of “having it all” was too high.

I found it interesting, as I struggled to “fit” my professional and parenting goals together, that I no longer “fit” the paradigm of my nursing discipline, at least the way it is expressed in academics. An example of the emphasis on producing that conflicts with helping our professionals care for themselves and their families stems from a discussion I had with a senior faculty member about my struggle to continue to contribute to our university while putting my family first. We were talking about finding time to publish the results of my research. This compassionate mother of one suggested that the solution to my problem was to “find the 5 a.m. time”. She explained that by getting up at 5 a.m. I could get several hours of writing time in before heading to work for the day. Obviously, this caring woman failed to realize that I am incapable of thinking at 5 a.m., and that my young children were often awake by 5 or 6 a.m., ready for play time. I know my colleague meant well, yet her response to my struggle was essentially for me to work longer hours. It is one answer, and that is how some colleagues in my, and other disciplines, handle their need to blend career and parenting. There are other ways to help individuals continue to contribute to their field. We need to develop new approaches to people, especially women, to contribute more at some times in their careers and less at other times, when family demands are greatest. When we set up an either/or situation, we lose the potential these people could contribute.

Painful Choices

I guess I’m a slow learner. One colleague has gone as far as telling me that I am stubborn. I prefer to value what I call my persistence, as a tool that facilitated my completion of doctoral study and continues to support my roles as mother, wife, friend and professional. I will admit that I strongly resisted (stubbornly?) the knowledge that I needed to give up some goals in order to accomplish my major objectives for parenting.

At this point I began to experience the strain and conflict between parenting and professionalism as inevitable. I had avoided a number of professional commitments—leadership on major grants, a tenure track position—that I knew would be too demanding at this point in my family life. I had made more than one attempt to carve out a meaningful, but manageable, professional niche. Yet there always turned out to be more than I bargained for. I decided at that time to leave the university setting entirely. Instead, I am in private practice as an individual and family therapist and continue to consult in the areas of family assessment and family centered care. It is interesting that many colleagues do not accept that my career choices were based on my desire to be present for my children, which I found to be incompatible with an academic career. I see my life as sequential now, with a time for career now followed by reduced contributions to my field while I parent young children. I know a time will come when I can again offer a great deal of energy to the academic side of my discipline. I hope there are opportunities to do so at that time.


When I think of balance I remember the graceful tightrope walker in the circus as she effortlessly performed astounding feats of daring and skill. That performance requires training, constant concentration and courage. It is not unlike balancing parenting and a professional career. I feel like a novice tightrope walker, consciously attending to the small movements that help maintain my balance. I am in a constant state of adaptation to the many demands of family, career and social obligations. Perhaps attaining a balance will become easier over time as I complete my tightrope walker training. My friends who are home full-time tell me they envy me my opportunity to work. My full-time working friends envy my parenting time. In truth, the life I have chosen of part-time career and almost full-time mother holds the best and worst of both worlds.

I bake cookies with my children and attend all preschool events. We go to parks and have friends over to play. Several mother2times each week I pile three little girls into my car for the giggling ride to preschool. We have a garden where we grow potatoes, squash and flowers. Tomorrow, I will help herd twelve preschoolers into a muddy pumpkin patch to find their ideal jack-o-lantern. On alternate days I frantically write promised articles, prepare presentations or see clients in my growing practice. When not engaged in these activities I shop for groceries, children’s clothes, household necessities, diapers or birthday presents. Somehow it doesn’t feel balanced. I have two careers, mother and professional, both valued, satisfying and demanding.


The result of this struggle is that our family is well, happy and healthy. The strain of my “having it all” cost us a lot in the past. Now, I have exciting career that I control, and am able to spend a good deal of time with my children and husband. With all my strengths and flaws, I am the major influence in my children’s lives. It is not a stress-free lifestyle. There are still conflicting pulls of parenthood and professionalism, but they are fewer, now that I own my business. I continue to search for a peer group, and have found some women who are also blending family and career. I am learning to fit into the world of full-time mothers, and find it a more complex world than I expected. I am also physically healthier than I have been in years and don’t have to constantly monitor my diet.

The losses I feel are the companionship of my colleagues and the adrenaline of presentations and teaching. I was unaware of the meaning my academic career held for me. Perhaps that was naive, or once again evidence of my denial. I underestimated my response to the loss of invitations to speak at conferences or to participate in expert panels. Luckily, I am human, and humans adapt fairly well. In short, I am getting used to my new lifestyle and do not for one minute want to change the past or my choices. This is obviously not the solution for all professional women as they transition to parenthood. It is only one approach to coping with two deeply held drives, the desire to be the best parent I can be to my own young children while continuing to contribute professionally to the well-being of many infants, toddlers and their families.

Edited from the , December 1990

How to Grow Appreciative Children

April 17, 2009

Unspoil Your Child

Source: article by Marisa Cohen for WebMD

A trinket here. A toy there. Somehow it’s all adding up to a kid who expects to get whatever she asks for. Here’s how to unspoil your child.
spoiledWho hasn’t bought a few moments of peace from a screaming toddler with a lollipop or splurged on a pair of sneakers just to hear your son say, “Mom, you’re the best!” When you’re busy or stressed, it’s tempting to buy your 2-year-old that stuffed pony just so you can get through Wal-Mart without the Embarrassing Public Tantrum. Or let your kid eat candy and bread for dinner so you can eat your own fish and veggies in peace. But if your child rarely has to wait between “I want it” and “I have it,” then he may be missing out on the chance to develop the emotional tools he’ll need to be a happy and successful adult. “When your child doesn’t have the opportunity to deal with the little disappointments in life by your saying no to her, you may be giving her poor preparation for dealing with the small or large difficulties that may come her way,” says Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., author of Spoiling Childhood: How Well-Meaning Parents Are Giving Children Too Much — But Not What They Need. It’s not too far a stretch to see how a child who is given every new video game the day it comes out can develop into an adult who gets frustrated when he isn’t given the corner office on his first day of work, notes Steven Friedfeld, a family therapist in New York City. But you can put an end to the gimmes — whether it’s your child’s inflated holiday list or her insistence on treats or snacks as prepayment for good behavior. Here’s how to go about implementing the despoiling process:

STEP 1: Acknowledge where the problem starts.

As much as we hate to admit it, spoiling is mostly about us parents: “We often try to compensate for what we didn’t have as children, to assure ourselves that our children love us, or to make up for any parental guilt we feel,” says Ehrensaft. Teresa Sellinger, a mother of three in Sparta, NJ, readily agrees with this: “I came from a huge family and grew up wearing hand-me-downs,” she says. “So I’m always buying my daughters the most stylish, matching outfits to wear to school. I know that’s more about my issues than theirs!” Giving your kids whatever new gizmo they want as soon as they want it is also a way to show off how successful you are, both financially and as a supermom. How many times have you heard a mom “complain” about how many Webkinz her kid has, as she simultaneously glows in the knowledge that she was able to buy them for her? Try to figure out where your need to spoil is coming from. Ask yourself a series of questions: Are you tired, overstressed, and trying to find a quick-fix solution? Are you feeling guilty for not spending enough time with your kids? Are you getting more of a kick out of this gift than your child is? Once you figure out what’s driving your tendency to spoil your kids, you’ll be better able to kick the habit.

STEP 2: Set rules and consequences.

There is a slippery slope in parenting, where the initial “If you behave, I’ll buy you a treat” turns into “Here, take this treat, and hopefully you’ll behave.” To wean your child off this demand-reward pattern, you’ll have to set the new rules in stone. “Observe your child for a few days to notice when she is really being demanding and refusing to take no for an answer — whether it’s with staying up past her bedtime, asking for new toys, or wanting candy,” suggests Lisa Forman, a family counselor in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Let’s say you recognize a pattern: Your daughter refuses to sit still at the dinner table unless she is promised her favorite dessert. The next step is to come up with a rule and a realistic consequence — such as taking away TV or computer privileges — for her behavior, keeping in mind your child’s age and tolerance level. And make sure your partner’s on board with the new plan; kids are experts at playing one parent off the other. Then, sit down and explain the rules to your child: “In our house, we get ice cream on Friday night if we have behaved at dinner all week. If there is whining for candy during dinner, you will lose the ice cream privilege.” Ask your child to repeat it back to you to make sure she understands — or better yet, make a chart together that she can decorate with stickers each time she follows the rules.

STEP 3: Don’t justify your decisions.

The other night, I told my 4-year-old daughter that she couldn’t have any cookies before dinner. Somehow, she managed to turn this into a 10-minute discussion about why. I realize now that she had no interest in listening to my explanation about the sugar content of the cookies — she was simply doing her best to break me. “Parents have this illusion that if they give their children the reason why they can’t do what they want, the child will stop wanting it, and as far as I know, that has never happened in the history of parenting!” says Nancy Samalin, a parenting educator and author of Loving Without Spoiling. Instead of trying to reason your child into obeying you, simply say, “No, and that’s the end of the discussion.” If she comes back at you with, “Why?” remind her, “In our house, that is the rule.” And as your child repeats her “But why?” refrain over and over, keep this statistic in mind: A survey by the Center for a New American Dream found that kids will ask for something an average of nine times before the parents cave. So stay strong and repeat your simple “no” on the ninth, tenth, and eleventh entreaty. Eventually, your child will realize that her attempts are futile, and she’ll move on.

STEP 4: Resist peer pressure.

When all their other tactics fail, children will inevitably resort to the one sentence that has been used to guilt parents since that first annoying caveman next door gave his son a shiny new rock: “But all the other kids have one!” Unfortunately, there is no magical response that will definitively shoot this argument down, but there are a couple of strategies that can be successful. “You can say to your child, ‘That’s interesting. Let’s talk about it,'” suggests Ehrensaft. “There may be a good reason for your child wanting what the other kids have: It might be a great new game everyone is playing at recess or a new book they’re all talking about. Tell your child that you will look into it, and see if it’s something you want him to have.” If the book/toy/game seems worthwhile, you can add it to his birthday list — or together you can come up with a strategy for how he can “earn” it, whether that means helping him calculate how much allowance he’ll need to buy it (perhaps he needs to save half the price, and you’ll kick in the rest) or suggesting it as a reward for a good report card.

STEP 5: Brace yourself for the meltdowns.

The first few times you stick to a new rule and say no, it will be painful — for you, your child, and everyone else within hearing distance. “There will be meltdowns at first, so fasten your seat belt and react to them in a very calm and neutral way,” suggests Ehrensaft. “If you hold to that line every day, your child will learn that this is not the way to get something that he wants, and he will eventually stop.” In fact, experts compare this part of the despoiling process to sleep-training your baby: a week or so of stress and tears, and then one blissful night your baby sleeps till morning — or your kid finally understands the word no.

STEP 6: Share the thrill of anticipation.

I remember being 8 years old and running up and down the stairs in my house, screaming with excitement because the once-a-year TV showing of The Wizard of Oz was about to begin. Today, when my daughters want to see Dorothy and the Munchkins, they simply pop in a DVD.
While our instant-gratification culture has made life easier in many ways, it has also diluted the joy of looking forward to special experiences. Just think about the buildup of excitement you get when you plan a vacation a month away — there’s the thrill of planning it, packing for it, talking to your friends about it. When you finally get there, the joy is magnified. But if there is no wait, no period of dreaming about it, the thrill is often less intense. “When kids are accustomed to getting things right away, nothing excites them anymore,” says Friedfeld. “The bar has been raised so high that by the time they’re teenagers, they might start looking toward other things — like alcohol and sex — for thrills.” Friedfeld also points out that teaching your children to wait for fun and treats helps them sustain focus and attention, two very important skills for success in school.

One of the best ways to teach anticipation is to give your child an allowance and let him save it toward the item he covets. My daughter, for example, knows that it takes exactly three weeks of saving her $2 allowance to have enough to buy a new Rainbow Fairies book, and seven weeks to save for a new Webkinz. For those few weeks, she talks about the book or animal, draws pictures of it, and discusses it endlessly with her little sister.
Other parents have found wish lists to be a powerful tool. Small children can cut out or draw pictures of toys they want for their birthday or Christmas/Hanukkah; older kids can create electronic wish lists on and other websites. And make the list finite: She can keep 10 items on it at any given time; to add a new wish, she has to eliminate an old one. This not only helps her prioritize what she truly desires but also shows your child that a toy she swore she couldn’t live without in April may seem less important in July.

STEP 7: Indulge in nonmaterial joys.

By now, your child should be behaving so wonderfully that you will be tempted to smother him with tons of treats. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can bestow in abundance without running the risk of spoiling: snuggling on the couch and reading books; saying “I love you”; popping a bowl of popcorn and watching the football game; listening to her tell an elaborate story about a princess and her magical purple rhinoceros without even once checking your cell phone. And don’t forget those weekly rewards for good behavior — if your child has followed all the rules you set, go ahead and share an ice cream sundae or do each other’s nails. Because when you strip the parent-child relationship down to its core, it’s pretty simple: Most kids would forgo another stuffed animal in favor of time with you. And that’s something money can’t buy.

Get Grandma on Your Team
Your children know that all they have to do is bat their eyes at your mom and that talking Elmo doll is theirs. How to get your parents with the program:

One mother of two in Minneapolis told REDBOOK she had present overload after the holidays last year. “We donated the extra toys to charity, but this year I’m asking the grandparents to buy just three gifts per child: one outfit, one toy, and one book.”

“Ask your parents to be moderate in their gifts. If they would like to make additional contributions, ask them to consider starting a fund or a trust for your child,” says Ehrensaft.

Encourage your parents to spend the day with the kids at the botanical garden or baking cookies together, instead of buying them a giant dollhouse or stuffed animal. “Love is spelled T-I-M-E,” says Samalin. “Remind your parents that your children love them, and not just things they give them.”

The Impact of Infants on Family Life

April 16, 2009

by Mary F. Longo, The Ohio State University Extension Educator

newmomHaving a new member of the family is typically an exciting, welcomed event. Often, though, the transition from nonparent to parent is a very stressful one. Responsibilities change overnight and never change back to the way they were prior to a child. Many factors can influence how a new baby impacts a family’s life, whether it is the first baby or not.

Childbearing Decision

Through their childbearing years, individuals decide whether or not to have children or a larger family than two. Many factors influence their decisions. For example, the social clock may be an influence for some. Couples who wish to wait may feel pressured by well intended grandparents-to-be.

Many families try to anticipate the best time for a child to come into the family. They consider job security or career levels. Some couples have financial goals they would like to reach before having a child. These families may be more prepared for a child in material ways, but the child still has a lifelong impact on the family.


Individuals differ in their natural tendencies to follow a routine. If baby and family are similar in their tendency to have a consistent routine, less adjustment is usually necessary to integrate the new family member. If the family or the baby tend not to follow a routine, parents and infants are more likely to go through a period of adjustment to find some balance.

A first child may have an especially large impact on the family’s routine because the couple only had themselves to worry about before the baby. With time and experience, parents learn to adjust.

Mothers and fathers may differ in some of the ways they accommodate a new infant. On the average, for example, mothers respond more frequently to their baby’s signals and learn the baby’s needs. Fathers are more likely to disregard cues and direct the baby’s attention to other things. Fathers are also more likely to continue their leisure activities, such as reading or watching television, while the baby is present. Mothers tend to interact with the baby more. Each of these results in different relationships between parent and child.

Social Support

Social support beyond the baby’s other parent can increase the quality of parenting and family life. This support may come from grandparents, other family members, and friends. Using a social network helps parents not to be isolated while developing parenting skills. Others are often able to help identify and interpret child-rearing problems.

If the parent has previous experience with children, either through siblings or job experience, he or she is more likely to be efficient at problem solving. The faster a minor problem is taken care of, the less impact that child has on a family adapting to the new role.

Parental Stress

Infants provide a certain amount of stress on the family, although they also may provide a guard against loneliness. This impact on family life may occur throughout the life of the child and parent.

The presence of the first child in the family is usually associated with lower marital satisfaction and less marital happiness. The couple tends to be satisfied with the marriage, but at a lower level.

Influence on Family

Research has shown that babies definitely impact the family. Here are some key points to consider:

  • During the first few months after a child is born, both parents are usually exhausted from lack of sleep. They are often inexperienced in the care of a baby and have a new schedule. The constant search for answers or help from friends, family, pediatricians and books can create tension between marriage partners.
  • Child rearing practices can also create tension between parents. Even if the parents have discussed how a baby will be raised and disciplined, these tensions may occur.
  • The husband-wife relationship is likely to take second priority to the ever-present needs of the new infant. There is less time for the couple to be together without the baby. Occasionally there may be feelings of resentment towards the new family member due to the lack of time for self or spouse. After the birth of a child, couples only have about one-third as much time together alone as they had when they were childless.
  • The parents’ experiences as a child influence the way they react in the parenting role. If either parent had a difficult childhood, for example, the baby might remind the parent of negative aspects of their own experiences.
  • As the parents adjust to the new role in the early months of the baby’s life, the family may strengthen. Over time, parents are likely to be better able to define their parental role and its importance in family life.


Newman, Barbara M. and Philip R. Development Through Life: A Psychological Approach. Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, California, 1991.

Strong, Bryan and Christine DeVault. The Marriage and Family Experience. West Publishing Co., New York, 1993.