Tag Archives: parenting

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

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How to help brothers and sisters connect through shared memories to build strong sibling relationships.

photo siblings snuggling

Image purchased from iStockphoto

It’s become a passion and priority of mine to help nurture my kids’ relationships with each other. It often has not been easy, but has always been worthwhile! Now at ages 28 (boy), 23 (girl), and 17(girl) I see their closeness and feel I’ve done at least one thing right.

To be honest, it has taken determination and even financial cost to help them draw and stay close, especially as young adults. But I realized when my kids were small that one way to help create strong relationships between them was to make sure they were part of each others’ special events in life. Whatever was special to that child, or teen, or young adult would be attended, if at all possible, by the other siblings. I wanted to help them build memories of each other’s successes, so that when they experienced failures or struggles they would turn to each other then, too.

It pains me to think of special events and even crises I missed with my own siblings. I either didn’t hear about them, couldn’t get there, or was too self-preoccupied. My biggest heartbreak was not getting to be at my own father’s funeral with the rest of the family as I was delivering my first child that week, so forbidden to fly. There were multiple practical reasons for our drifting apart: gender, age, personality differences and moving away to school/work.  Much separation can occur naturally, unless parents are determined to curtail that drift somehow.

I became determined when I became a parent myself to make special efforts to glue our kids together through shared critical memories, sometimes whether they liked it or not.  Don’t like to watch wrestling or listening to violins? Tough. Be there to support your sibling. I didn’t force all events, but made sure they were there for at least some, to create shared memories.

That has often meant setting aside funds specifically for family events and coordinating calendars like a ninja. And sometimes firmly telling school officials or coaches our kids would miss school events to be at critical sibling events. I actually laughed when a cheerleading coach complained when our youngest missed practices to attend her sister’s wedding. But most were supportive and highly respectful of our nurturing our kids’ relationships.

Here are a few ways we’ve nurtured our kids in recent years:

  • Flew the family from IA to RI to our eldest son’s graduation from naval officer candidate school, and took our youngest out of school & sports practices for a few days for that purpose.
  • Bought an airline ticket for our teen to do a 3-way trip this past summer to see her brother in CA, and sister in WA.
  • Timed it just right so brother and sister could run a half marathon together.
  • Flew our middle daughter from WA to CA show she could see her brother before deployment and the two of them could visit grandparents together. Brother used his own airline mileage to get his sister there.

Practically speaking, we’ve had to budget for some things by pinching pennies in other ways. We have always bought used cars — and kept them forever — to have at least a small travel budget. We pay for big items (home repairs, etc.) with cards that get us airline miles. We eat out less when we want to save for more important things. And if travel is not affordable, there is always Skype: for free.

Also free and easy is continually encouraging communication. “You might give your sister a call, she’s having a rough time.” “Sister is in a race right now with a live video feed! Here’s the link!” “Brother will be packing up, this is a great time to give him a call.” But what I love now is when I make suggestions like that they are have often already talked or texted each other.

For those of you with multiple little ones, it may seem a no-brainer keeping your kids close. They are always together anyway, either playing or fussing and fuming. Where you go, they all go.

But at some point they grow up. Brothers and sisters with the most distance between ages can naturally grow apart. Older ones leave home for college and careers, younger ones are left behind. Right now they may fight like cats and dogs and you wonder if they will ever get along. But as teens and young adults, they will have fresh opportunities to draw close to each other.

I can’t tell you how many times I told my kids this (especially when they were fighting):  “Friends will come and go — but you will have your siblings for each others’ lifetimes. Cherish that.” Sometimes they said, “Yeah, right.” As young adults they all get it.

7 Key Features in the Best Toys

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By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

With the glut of toys on the market, how can you choose the best toys for your child? Look for these 7 key features.

This post contains excerpts from the book The Power of Parent-Child Play, © Laurie Winslow Sargent, Tyndale House Publishers. 

Measure Up Cups by Discovery Toys

Image: Measure Up Cups (Discovery Toys)

In my mind, the best toys or games are safe, plus have several or all of the following features related to play value:

 

  • Can be played with in a variety of ways and stimulate some imagination
  • Teach more than one skill
  • Appeal to several age groups
  • Encourage positive behavior and learning
  • Are fun (for the child—and hopefully for the parent, too)
  • Get frequent, long-term use and stimulate interest in independent play
  • Offer a window into what the child is thinking or feeling

Toys that don’t meet many of these qualifications can be a waste of money and do little but create clutter in your home.

I’m big on what toys teach, partly due to my previous experience working as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) in public schools, including one Birth-to-Three program. But I’m also a huge fan of helping kids learn through toys because I did just that with my own three kids. (My middle daughter is now a teacher in early childhood education.)

I used to write toy reviews for the former Christian Parenting Today magazine. Toy manufacturers (including Fisher-Price® and PlaySkool) sent me boxes of play materials to evaluate. That made me think more deeply about what was worth occupying space in my own kids’ rooms and what I could justifiably recommend to my 250,000 readers.

Once when the UPS man delivered a huge box of toys for me to review, the neighbor kids were gathered in my yard. Reviewing the toys became a group project. One thumbs-down preschool toy was designed so poorly it made us all laugh. A catapult was supposed to launch plastic treats (with numbers on them) into a creature’s plastic mouth. Theoretically, it was designed to teach child recognition of the numbers one through five.  Realistically, correctly loading and launching the catapult required the motor skills of a child who could count to fifty. Of course my creative crowd found other things to launch with the toy until the catapult fell off.

A much better toy, one that all three of my children loved, was a set of Measure Up Cups, which can be used to “dump, fill, nest, stack and stamp. These volumetrically correct, sequentially numbered cups introduce important preschool concepts related to volume, size, time, color and measurement.”

The toy is described as appropriate for children from 12 months through primary school, but an infant can also play with the larger cups. That means the toy can be played with by the same child for four to five years–and my kids did.

The manufacturer’s site describes 16 different ways you can play with the Measure Up Cups. I’ve modified their list a bit to focus on games you can play with your baby, toddler or preschooler.

Games to Play with Measure Up Cups

  • Stack into a tower to knock down. (Toddlers love to do this, and don’t realize they’re learning cause and effect.)
  • Build a castle (the scalloped edges make great castle turrets). This can lead to some fun pretend play with preschoolers. This is a new feature my kids’ cups didn’t have. Neat!
  • Scoop, fill and pour water, sand, rice or small safe objects. At the same time your child learns mathematical concepts, since the contents of cup #1 plus cup #2 equals the contents of cup #3.
  • Nest the cups to learn about size and relationships. This also helps your toddler’s motor skills.
  • Practice number recognition with your toddler; the cups are numbered both on the outside and inside on the bottom. For fun, a child can put a corresponding number of small, safe objects in each cup.
  • Learn English, French and Spanish words for numbers as those words are stamped on the sides of the cups. This is also new, awesome feature to extend the fun even through early elementary school.
  • Practice color identification as your child sorts and stacks the cups.
  • Hide objects under the cups, then reveal them. This can teach a baby object permanence, but also can be fun for illusion tricks with preschoolers.
  • Touch and feel numbers with your eyes closed, inside the cup on the bottom.
  • Identify animals on the bottoms of the cups with your baby.
  • Stamp the animal designs into dough or wet sand with your preschooler.  Point out to your child that the designs grow progressively larger as the cups increase in size.
  • Trace around the cups and then match the cups to the right sized circles.
  • Practice telling time with your preschooler: the designs on the outside of the cups correspond to clock face positions–another new feature.

As a recap, to choose the best toys for your children, look for ones that can be played with in many ways, stimulate creativity and imagination, teach more than one skill to more than one age group, and make learning fun. The best toys will be used often and your child will enjoy playing with them by himself but also with you. Great toys can actually make parenting more exciting, when through parent-child play you see your child thinking, learning new skills and reaching new milestones.

Play on!

Laurie

How Do I Stop My Kids’ Fighting?

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By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

One frustrated mom asked, “How I stop my kids’ fighting? It’s driving me crazy!”


Photo by Stuart Miles: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ooooh, been there, done that, felt that. I know, it can be enormously frustrating. I think what  made me craziest was the noise level–just having to listen to it.

Even handling it perfectly (and how would that be?) won’t make it go away entirely. Kids are learning how to relate to each other and will practice with their siblings.

As we enter this discussion on sibling squabbles, ask yourself this:  “What am I most reacting to?” Is the answer:

#1 The noise?

#2 The issues at hand, which you feel you must intervene in (and should you–really–or must they work it out themselves?)

#3 The need to protect one child from another, physically or from wounding words?

Kids pick at each other for all kinds of reasons and many do require adult intervention (AKA refereeing). But for this first post on kids’ fighting, let’s examine your own attitude as a parent, as I was forced to examine mine.

Is it possible that your interventions in kids’ fighting sometimes make things worse?  Consider your:

(CLICK to cont. for 6 Ways parent attitudes can affect kids’ fighting…)

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Are We There Yet? 3 tricks to help kids travel (more) patiently

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By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

How do you keep your sanity when traveling kids whine, “Are we there yet?” Here are 3 ways to keep them occupied, so they travel more patiently and pleasantly.

How do you keep kids from whining, “How much farther?”           Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I had to lay still for half an hour for a simple medical test, but couldn’t see a clock. To pass the time (and distract myself from moving) I played an old mind game, Count the Music, which I played with my kids on long road trips.

Try this, plus two more ways to keep your own kids occupied as you drive:

Way#1: Count the Music

Consider that most songs on the radio are 3-4 minutes long. In your own head, take the number of minutes you expect it to take to reach your destination and divide by three. Tell the kids “We’ll be there in 7 songs,” (or whatever). They can keep track of the number of songs on their fingers.

While listening to music during my medical test, I’d calculated that would hear eight or nine songs. I only heard three, so must have dozed off while counting and focusing on the music. It tends to work the same way with kids–they either get into the music or fall asleep. It also gives them a sense for how much time is passing if they can’t grasp what “half an hour” is nor tell time.

(CLICK TO READ Way #2 and Way #3)

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A Huge Thank You for Playful Fathers

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This makes me ache for every child who has no dad to play with, or a father who is present but not available. And it makes me very thankful for my own husband who has been so wonderfully involved with our own three kids and helped them grow to become such fine grown up people.

I appreciate Igniter Media for creating this video showing the empty spaces and places left by missing fathers. It truly reveals the power of parent-child play and especially the impact of playful fathers. Visit Igniter Media’s website at  ignitermedia.com and their YouTube channel. You can also find them on Twitter as @IgniterMedia.

7 Ways to Get Your Child to Clean His Room: What Supernanny forgot to tell the Phelps

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Wondering how to get your child to clean his room? Here are a few tips Supernanny forgot, at least in this one episode.

On ABC’s Supernanny episode with the Phelps family (Season 6: Episode 3) plenty made me cringe. However, one scene stuck in my head for days.

In that scene, the mom repeatedly asked her child to clean up his toys. In a video shot of the floor, it looked as if every toy he owned covered it. Most moms can identify with that: Lego® blocks, mixed with action figures, mixed with who-knows-what. Aaack!

When the boy didn’t comply, Mom became enraged. Yelling and spanking didn’t work. Supernanny Jo’s suggestions, including the infamous Time Out (until the boy agreed to pick up his toys), plus anger management for Mom, helped some. Indeed, Mom had to handle her anger differently. (See Kathy Collard Miller for inspiration for Christian moms with anger issues.)  And I’m all for time-outs, although effectiveness varies according to personalities.

Yet critically missing from Supernanny’s advice were tips on how to prevent the problem in the first place.

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Kids and Allowances: How even young children can earn and learn.

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The door jingled as we entered the small gift shop.

“There they are!” 9-year-old Aimee said. She held up a little stuffed dog. “This one is so cute!”

“I want one too!” exclaimed Elisa, age three and half.

I explained to her, for the second time, that Aimee was spending her own, hard-earned allowance. Elisa looked very unhappy.

“But I want one really, really, really bad.”

“Well, what could you do to earn it?” I asked her.

Elisa stood still, thinking. “How ’bout if I do a chore like Aimee and Tyler every day?” She rambled on about how Tyler does the recycling and Aimee sets the table. Then she said, “I could empty the dishwasher every day, not do the knives ’cause they’re too sharp, but I could empty the rest.”

I told her it would take her four weeks to earn that eight-dollar stuffed dog, but if she did a great job, she could start earning a regular allowance–two dollars a week! Elisa eagerly agreed.

Elisa kept her promise.  Eleven years later–age 14 1/2– she is still faithfully emptying the dishwasher. Now she gets a bit more than two dollars for that and other chores, and the cash goes towards her cell phone service!

In our family, the purpose of giving our children allowances is not to directly pay them for chores, although they often see it that way. In fact, from this episode it may seem that way, but only because we hadn’t planned on starting Elisa’s so soon. In general we have always told our kids that as part of the family, we want them to share in our family finances and learn how to budget. In return, they’re expected to help keep the family household running smoothly.

Parents don’t want to be in a position where children expect to be paid for everything they do to help around the house. However, sometimes in addition to their weekly or daily chores, they’re given the option of earning more with specific jobs–for instance, helping change the oil in the car or power-washing the driveway.

We have also always differentiated between Personal Chores and Family Chores. The former are expected, no matter what (cleaning own room, bathing, tooth brushing, etc.) and do not earn the child any money (although we’ve been known to use stickers and other incentives!).  Family chores are ones that benefit the entire household. We discovered–as did Elisa–that we were actually dependent on her. We couldn’t eat unless we had clean dishes to put on the table, and dirty ones could not be washed until she put away the clean ones! It made her feel very responsible and necessary.  To make this chore easier for her, we let her stack the plates on low shelves in the cupboard.

How much to pay? Every family is different, but for us the amount of the allowance varies according to the child’s age and his or her ability to manage money. The big kids enjoy freedom to use allowance money for swimming or the movies. Older kids are given more, but also expected to use their own money to buy birthday gifts for friends or family, and eventually many of their own clothes–and learn to find bargains.

What new way can your child help the family today? What chores do your kids do, and at what age?

Laurie

YouCanTooMom.Wordpress.com

Excerpt from: Chapter 10: Chores are Done, Time for Fun!, page 157 in The Power of Parent-Child Play, by Laurie Winslow Sargent (2003, Tyndale House Publishers).