All Entries For parenting

Add More Veggies to Your Family Meals


"Eat your vegetables." We've heard it all of our lives, but if only it were so simple! Our bodies crave fruits and vegetables more than just about any other food because we tend to get far fewer of them than we need.

With just a little thought and a tiny bit of effort in snack preparation, you can make these nutritious foods more convenient and accessible for the whole family:
Posted 9/9/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 28 comments   16,181 views
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How to Teach (and Learn) Self-Control as a Parent


Any pediatrician or experienced parent will tell you that tantrums are just a fact of toddlerhood. Every child throws fits, and every parent struggles with how to deal with them.
 
What you're actually teaching is self-control, which is what makes it so difficult. That concept starts with you, and controlling yourself in the face of a screaming, irrational toddler is not always easy.
 
The official advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to distract, ignore and remove--in that order. On the surface, it seems simple. Distract the child when he starts fussing. If he is angry about leaving the playground, sing a silly song to redirect his attention and mood as you buckle him into the car seat. If that doesn't work and he continues to cry and yell, ignore it with the hope that he'll wear out the anger and frustration. And if that doesn't happen and he pitches a toy at your head instead, tell him sternly, ''No throwing!'' and remove the toys and other potential missiles from the car seat.
 
Simple--except you're now trapped in a vehicle with a kid screaming bloody murder because, after copious warnings that lunch was coming soon, you had the audacity to ask him to leave the playground. For food. Which he needs to survive.
 
Are you angry yet? Frustrated? Because I'm getting irritated just remembering this horrible experience--er, I mean, thinking about this hypothetical situation.
 
Posted 8/28/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 20 comments   13,484 views
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Workout Tips for New Parents


Between nursing, changing diapers, preparing meals (and cleaning up after those meals), visiting family, and trying to squeeze in a shower, stay-at-home parents work just as hard as those who clock in elsewhere, and often find themselves stuck in the same no-time-to-exercise trap.
Posted 8/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 17 comments   12,497 views
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How to Keep Your Child Safe in Cyberspace


Technology is everywhere.  Personal computers and smart phones grant us easy access to games, chatting forums, and countless threads of information that seep into every corner of our lives. 

When we think of children's cyber safety, we most often think of monitoring Internet use on computers.  And some parents do, though not enough.  One study of teen Internet safety reported that 75% of teens said that their parents almost never monitor their use. Additionally, almost one-third of teens surveyed said their parents would disapprove of how they spend their time on the Internet. 

Besides computers, other devices need monitoring, too.  Kids and teens now chat, share pictures, and watch videos on cell phones and gaming systems. Downloaded games on smart phones and gaming devices often have a chat component within them—and these games can usually be played with random online ''buddies.''

What technology does your child have access to?  What technology does your child have that allows others to have access TO your child?   Do you trust blindly or monitor closely?  Would your child know what to do if he came across inappropriate content or if someone asked her questions through a chat?

Recently, the playroom door in our house was closed.  It is never closed, so it caught my attention.  I opened it and my 7-year-old son, with his gaming device in hand, looked up with an ''Oh, no, I didn't expect you to walk into the room'' expression.   Without thinking, I blurted out, ''Put your hands where I can see them and don't move!''  (Perhaps I need to cut back on TV.)  I took his game and found that he was watching a video that was borderline inappropriate for his age—I would deem it ''okay,'' but only with adult explanation of its content.  Unbeknownst to me, the system regularly gives the (child) user notifications and access to new games, music videos, and the like. 

It became clear that a ''switch'' had turned on in his little brain, and he had to be monitored more closely than I'd realized. 
Posted 8/23/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 17 comments   13,678 views
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Parenting is NOT One-Size-Fits-All


The advice starts pouring in as soon as your belly starts to show.

First, they want to tell you how to give birth. Then, they have wisdom about how to feed the baby. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding--doesn't matter. The world has opinions and those opinions don't care what's working best for you and your child and your lives. Just when you thought no one could have any more to say about food, it's time to start solids. Actually, it probably was time a month ago. Unless you've already started, in which case, that's too early! The food advice slows only when the questions about the big developmental milestones start flowing. ''Is he walking yet? Has she started talking? Here's how you get them ready…''

And of course, there's the mother of all parenting advice: ''Enjoy them now! They grow so fast."

Some of my best parenting tricks have come from the advice of others. My sister taught me how to diaper a baby boy to prevent leaks. My mom helped me learn to ignore the small tantrums of a toddler. I got my boys to at least try everything on their plates thanks to the advice of a blogger. A preschool teacher taught me how to turn on my sons' ''listening ears'' before issuing commands. I'm all for using the wisdom of the masses to make my life easier.

But I've also gotten some really rotten advice, advice that makes life harder if only by its existence.

Posted 8/14/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 30 comments   8,422 views
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Kindergarten 'Redshirting': A Leg Up or an Unfair Advantage?


August is flying by. All too soon a new school year will begin, and with it will come the same mixed feelings and buzz of energy that surrounded the end of the school year. Besides the traditional anxieties of getting to the bus stop on time and remembering to pack a healthy lunch, for many parents of kindergarten-age students, there is another anxiety, this one with much higher stakes than being tardy on the first day of school: When should you enroll your child in kindergarten?   

When we were kids, most US children started school at 5 years old.  It's a much bigger decision now, with controversy and even politics on both sides of the issue.
I followed the old rule and kept it simple.  I enrolled my son in kindergarten for one reason: He was 5 years old, and being five meant going to kindergarten.  He started school two days after his late August birthday in 2009. To me, it was a no-brainer. From the start, there were good signs: In the first week of kindergarten he met his (still) best friend, and their birthdays are less than a week apart!  They were instant buddies. 

But the naïve bubble in which I was living soon burst. 

Their birthdays are within a week of each other, in two different years.  His newfound chum was an entire year older than him and there were kids in his class who were nearly 18 months older than him (At age five, that's almost a third of your life older!)  Evidently, it was not as simple as I thought.

How much did you (or do you) think about when to start your son or daughter in kindergarten?  Is your child one of the youngest or the oldest in the class?  Have you heard the term redshirting?
Posted 8/9/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 122 comments   39,413 views
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6 Tips for a Healthier Family Road Trip


Planning a family road trip? Keep your family fit and healthy along the way. When you’re traveling by car, you spend a lot of time planning your course. We all want to make good time, but it’s also important to schedule several breaks into your itinerary, especially when you have kids:
Posted 8/5/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 12 comments   9,570 views
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Can We Teach Ourselves (and Our Kids) to Be Happier?


Every morning, I start my day with a hot chai.  In the summer, it is a particularly special treat.  Instead of my usual vanilla chai, it is transformed into a half-coconut, half-vanilla chai.  I realize it has too many calories and I should opt for sugar-free syrup (at least it is nonfat), but I consider it my one indulgence.  My one addiction. 

My morning pleasure. 

It makes me happy. 

Happiness.  Most of us want it.  Many of us have it. The drive-thru window where I get my chai provides an interesting backdrop for a small study of the differences in people's levels of happiness. 

There is one girl who is simply bubbling over with happiness each and every time I see her.  It is genuine.  She actually makes you happy.  I would love to meet her parents. 

Then there is another person whom you dread hearing on the speaker and seeing at the window.  Nothing about him even whispers, "Hey, I'm a mostly happy guy."  

With which person do you most identify?

There are two ways that we can think about happiness.  We can consider things that come and go, but bring happiness to us when we experience them (for many, these include shopping, eating, and drinking).  We can also consider something that I think of as our "way of being."  We can have episodes of happiness or we can just simply be happy. 
Posted 7/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 27 comments   13,938 views
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Maybe Your Way Isn't Always the Best Way


I often joke about the negative things motherhood has brought to my life- lack of sleep, no free time, an acceleration of the aging process, etc.  The truth is, motherhood has brought an innumerable amount of positive things to my life.  In addition to the great things about my kids, becoming a mom has developed a more compassionate and non-judgmental side to my personality that I might not have had otherwise.  Instead of being annoyed or just walking past the mom with the screaming baby in the grocery store, I’m much more likely to ask if there’s anything I can do to help.  When I see someone with a different parenting style than mine, I try hard to understand and be respectful of the fact that we aren’t all the same, instead of automatically assuming what they are doing is wrong. 
Posted 7/24/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 61 comments   11,969 views
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How to Get Your Kids to Drink Water


Water is the best thing you can give your kids to drink during the hot summer days. But how do you get them to drink it? How do you get them to chug down plain old water at the pool when they're surrounded by other kids guzzling down sugary juice boxes? How do you get your hard-playing child to drink water instead of sugar-laden sports drinks? How do you expect them to get a bottle of water at the baseball game instead of a cold, fizzy soda?
 
Posted 7/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 26 comments   13,595 views
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The 10 Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents


It’s as simple as counting to 10!

  1. Thou shalt not force, bribe or coerce thy child to eat.
     
  2. Thou shalt set a good example by eating at least five fruits and vegetables, three whole grain products, and three dairy servings per day thyself.
     
  3. Thou shalt make mealtimes pleasant.
     
  4. Thou shalt encourage thy child to help in meal planning, preparation, and cleanup.
     
  5. Thou shalt back off when mealtime becomes a power struggle.
    Posted 7/22/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 28 comments   17,135 views
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The Popularity Contest: Why You Don't Need to Finish First


Disclaimer: Psychological research is largely based on averages for groups of people.  We prove practically nothing in psychology!  It is too difficult--people are too complicated! When dealing with the human mind, one size does not fit all.

Think back to your grade school and high school years.  Think about the kids you went to school with.  Who was popular?  How would you describe those kids?  Who did you like the most among your peers?  Why did you like them? 

Research on popularity is now being understood with a new lens.  For decades, it went like this: Researchers would ask kids who they liked and disliked, and would then add up the number of likes and dislikes for each child. Based on the votes, kids were categorized as popular, average, controversial, rejected or neglected.  Those kids who received the most ''like'' votes (and rarely received dislike votes) were classified as ''popular.''

Recently, researchers have been paying attention to children’s comments a little bit more and have started to debate whether being liked is the same as being popular.  The answer: Being liked by many peers is not the same as being considered popular by peers.  Popularity is based more on reputation than on the degree to which one is liked. 

The (mostly) bright side: Popular kids tend to be competent both athletically and academically, and are often physically attractive.  They also show lots of prosocial behaviors and have good senses of humor.  The dark side: Kids who are popular tend to be socially dominant.  Popularity often involves aggressive physical and psychological/social behavior.  For some kids, the more relationally aggressive they are (spreading rumors, threatening not to be somebody’s friend), the more likely they are to maintain their powerful ''popular'' status.  And, unfortunately, when being mean to others pays off, it becomes a reinforcing cycle.
Posted 7/12/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 35 comments   20,811 views
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How to Minimize Summer Sickness


Few things are worse than a summer cold.

Summer is supposed to be a break from the sniffles and sneezes of cold and flu season, but I've found that when you have small children, there is no break from germs. If anything, summer–the season of pools and splash pads, shared water bottles and summer camps–just gives your children more opportunities to bring home a virus.

My boys are in a daycare that has a weekly water day all summer. The school fills up kiddie pools and sprinklers and lets the kids run around splashing and squirting each other. They have a blast. But by the end of the day, the pool is more snot than it is water. And it never fails--everyone in our house is congested and coughing within a week.

I haven't figured out how to avoid the germs altogether, but I do have a few tips for minimizing the damage.

Posted 7/10/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   10,261 views
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Sometimes the Littlest People Know the Most


Forget about talk radio, research labs, late night TV, or a magazine rack full of scantily clad cover models. Everything you need to know about fitness and nutrition, you can learn from your kids.

Here are 11 things children can teach you about healthy living:

Posted 7/8/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 14 comments   13,512 views
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How Do We Raise Morally Healthy Children?


You may have heard the recent news about a school bus aide who was tormented to the point of tears by a group of middle school students. The appalling encounter was caught on video and went viral on YouTube. News stories, internet videos and even thousands of dollars of sympathy donations are among the reactions of shocked Americans across the country.  The questions are rampant:  How could the tormenters behave that way?  How does a person sit idly while victimized?  Could the bus aide have done anything to stop the boys?  What did the parents do (or not do) to raise boys that would behave that way?

At some point, all of us have been the victim of someone’s bad judgment, whether it be a comment or glare because of our age, weight, or some physical feature.  It is wrong, but we cannot escape it.  Why are we compelled to hurt other people?  Even worse, why do some take pleasure in hurting others? 

Posted 6/28/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 49 comments   16,023 views
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