Archive for the ‘General Parenting’ Category

Teaching Your Kids The Importance of Commitment

It always seems that the phrases you dreaded the most from your parents as a small child seem to be the ones you find yourself saying to your own kids.  As you speak the words yourself, you can hear your parents in your head.

parenting tips

For a moment you think, “Oh no, this is what I’ve become,” but then you realize the wisdom they had and move on.

For me, this phrase was, “No, you can’t quit, you made a commitment.”  Commitment, it seems to be less and less prominent in our society today.  In a world of disposability, we seem to have lost the art of commitment.  It’s a hard trait to learn and even harder to maintain but it is one that is so important to ensuring our children grow up to be successful adults.

commitment and children
When your kid tells you they don’t want to continue doing the activity you paid $$$ for.

I have a child involved in theater and without a doubt there comes a time in the rehearsal schedule that she comes to me begging to either skip rehearsal.  These moments typically occur when it’s a crazy week, she is exhausted, school homework is insane and rehearsals are scheduled to run long.   All of which make for very legitimate reasons to let her stay home, but I don’t allow it because I can’t.  I can’t because I want her to learn the importance of staying true to her word.  I want her to learn determination – that characteristic that you must call upon when you are just flat spent.  I want her to feel the joy that comes from pushing through and supporting her team members that also are struggling with exhaustion.  I want her boss to see her as someone that is reliable and dependable, even when deadlines are tight and the nights run long.  And so I repeat to her the phrase my own mom shared with me and know that in the long run I am teaching her the importance of commitment in a world that seems to have forgotten its importance.

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

Fun Snow Day Activities for the Whole Family

Blizzard Activities

If you are one of the fortunate families enjoying time indoors due to the three feet of snow between you and your ability to leave your home you are likely needing some creative ideas to keep the kids (and you) sane!

After you’ve played every iteration of monopoly you’ve found in your house, here are some fun indoor activities for the whole family.  I’ve found that, in the midst of activities we often learn a lot about what is going on in our kids lives-  it is as though when having fun they put their guard down!

So enjoy this time to laugh, build some memories, have some fun and learn a few things by connecting with your kids.

Make Colored Ice Sculptures  

Colored Ice Activity for Winter Days

  1. Place water and colored dye into various containers – for example we use glasses, muffin tins or maybe even a small pot or two.  
  2. Place them in the freezer or outside if your temperature is low enough!  
  3. When they are frozen, run the container under warm water to loosen the ice so that you can pop it out.  
  4. Have the kids build sculptures from the various pieces and place them outside.  The color against the white snow makes for a beautiful art piece and will also allow you to see just how quickly or not quickly the snow around you is melting.  

Make an indoor obstacle course  

hamster

  1. It’s been awhile since you vacuumed behind all that furniture so why not do it after you’ve moved the furniture around in such a way that builds a course.  Use the whole house and get creative.  
  2. Make it challenging by having the kids crawl, use only one leg, slide through like a snake or even better blindfolded.  
  3. Time everyone and make it a tournament of sorts with multiple rounds for those winners advancing.  Not only will they burn energy but they will learn creative problem solving, teamwork and listening along the way.

Although, the cabin fever is at times a bit stressful, remember these are time times your kids will remember.  So push aside the frustration, be present in the moment and have some fun!

 

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

Preparing Your Kids For College

College tours are in full swing for many of our families as they help their children prepare for this next phase in life.  More than once I’ve heard the story of the stunned teenager as they realize that mom will no longer be on laundry duty…and so the story begins.

Have you prepared your children to launch into this world of ours?  Have you spent as much time teaching them how to be a successful adult as you have being their friend and confidant?  If so, it is never too late.  Here are a few parenting tips you can implement now to ensure your teen or pre-teen child is prepared to survive their first semester away.

  1. Have them do their own laundry.  If you are a freak like me, this is a hard one.  I promise you that the world won’t end if they shrink something or turn it red.  Start by teaching them the basics and watching them actually do the work, then let them loose to do it on their own.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how good they are at it.Student taking care of laundry
  2. Make them set their own alarms to get up for school and DO NOT do it for them.  Unless you are prepared to drive to their dorm rooms five days a week, they need to be able to get up on their own.  This seems simple but it will be the difference in a good semester and a failed semester.  Oh and when they oversleep (and they will) let them suffer the natural consequences of the unexcused absence.  DO NOT cover for them unless you are prepared to do the same for them in College.  College Waking Up
  3. Have them fix their own breakfast (and lunch for that matter).  Unless you want your child to be sustained on pop tarts, Cheetos, and fast food, they must know how to cook a meal.  The habits they are developing now are the habits they will take with them into adulthood.  Again, start slow.  Help them identify variety and things they might like and show them how to prepare.  As they become more confident, gradually back away.

Prepare you teen for college

In today’s world, it is very easy to do things for our kids out of love but be mindful that your “love” isn’t crippling them or you may have to love, aka take care of them longer than you expected.

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

The Controversy Behind Girl Scout Cookies

Who knew that Girl Scout cookies were a controversial topic but apparently so due to Girl Scouts going digital with their orders and so many parents doing the selling through Facebook and other social media mediums.   I must tell you this one has made me pause, consider and reconsider in terms of whether or not I agree.  

parenting tip for cookie moms

The new girl scouts program seems great, if the parents aren’t the one’s actually selling the cookies.

 

Here are my thoughts to all those parents wanting to support their kids without being helicopter moms and dads as you consider launching those online campaigns.  

  1. If you want to sell at work (through the old fashion paper sign up), have your child prepare the marketing materials.  Have fun with it through clever marketing phrases and colorful signage.  In addition, have them follow up with an email or hand-written thank you note to everyone who supports the cause.  This gives them some skin in the game and teaches them the importance of good marketing and customer service.  
  2. If you are posting online, have them do the posting on your page.  Get clever and have them record a video.  Have them do new videos and posts each week.  In addition, have them private message or publicly post notes of thanks to those satisfied customers.  You are teaching them great lessons about viral marketing and how to utilize happy customers to drive more business.   
  3. Require that they track and manage all sales.  If they can operate an iPad or iPhone, they can operate and track on excel or some other form of spreadsheet accounting.  If you want to teach real money management, have them track the $$/time on marketing to help them understand which arenas drive the greatest net profits.  
  4. Make them do SOME selling in person.  This could be door-to-door sales or getting a booth in front of the local grocer.  There are so many lessons wrapped up in soliciting (and getting rejected) for business.  girl scout cookies gone digital

Bottom line, I don’t think you are an awful parent for supporting your child’s efforts.  It only becomes problematic when you remove them from the occasion.  Teaching them to manage those they’ve delegated selling to is a lesson in and of itself.  I for one will be buying online so let the solicitations begin…  Oh if you see a girl selling, throw them a few bucks and support their efforts!

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

How to Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time


time spend on electronics

There is a constant debate among parents about how much screen time is too much for your children.  A recent NPR article gave a startling fact, “Most American children spend more time consuming electronic media than they do in school.

What can you do to better the way or reduce the time your kids are spending on electronic devices?

Be a Role-Model

Your kids are constantly watching and taking after you, especially when you’re not at your best.  They will remember if you pull out your phone at dinner, and if you try to reprimand them for doing the same thing, you’ll find yourself fighting an uphill battle.

tweens screen time parenting and screen time

Have Conversations About the “Real World”

Talk to your kids about the activities they do that don’t involve electronics. Having conversations about the sports they’re playing, the books they’re reading and other activities can draw their interest into these interests. This parenting tip is even more important for younger children as they are actively seeking out your attention.  So, if your kid notices that you talk more about their soccer game than their high score on a video game, they may be more inclined to work in soccer or outdoor activities more.

Involve your kids in rule making

If you can get your kids to come to an agreeance around appropriate electronic usage, they’ll be more understanding when they inevitably break the rule.  Plus, this opens up a great opportunity for you to have a discussion with your kids about how they’re using their electronics and what safe usage looks like.

parenting tips for amount of screen time parenting
We’d love to hear from you about this topic; do you limit your children’s screen time, and if so how does your family go about it?

Getting Back to the Basics of Parenting

busyCalendar2

Raising children is hard to manage.  Our family just downloaded a calendar app to try and keep everyone’s schedules straight.  My biggest fear, as a Mom, is that I will at some point forget a kid somewhere, then who would I to be giving parenting tips!  I’m hoping this calendar will allow me to avoid this embarrassing and scary situation.  As I began to reflect on how much we struggle managing the schedules of two girls who are only allowed to participate in one activity at a time (here is where you sigh at how this decision might be holding my child back from entrance into the most prestigious universities….) It dawned on me that maybe just maybe in our pursuit of success, happiness or the multitude of other reasons we overcommit our calendars, we are no longer driving our lives but our lives are driving us.  And, as a result, the family has taken the brunt of the impact.

It’s time to stop the madness and get back to the basics… strengthening our families NOT the fullness of our calendars.  

What if, instead of having them rush home from school to complete their homework before hockey, karate or piano lessons, we forced them to go outside, climb trees, ride their bikes and use their imagination…that thing that kept us all busy outside for hours when we were kid.

Healthy eating as a family

What if, instead of sustaining ourselves on drive-through meals due to everyone’s competing schedules, we committed to two (sigh, gasp in shock) nights a week where as a family we all sat around the table together and shared the day’s experiences?  What would change in terms of family dynamics?

What if, during dinner, everyone was required to check out from their technology (even us parents) and check in to the family?  Make it a house rule to have no phones out at the table.  How much more would we know about the struggles, the wins and the celebrations in our kids’ lives?   

House Rule

What if, this year you decided to get away from the madness and back to the basics?  What would your family, your relationship with your spouse and kids look like in 12 months?   I suspect you might not even recognize it… and that would be a good thing!

 

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

Setting Family New Year’s Resolutions

family

As we enter the new year, we get too look back and reflect on the last.   We begin to assess how well we did on those New Year’s resolutions.  How often, however, have you sat down as a family and made family resolutions?  If you haven’t done this yet, take the time to do it now.  There is something powerful about having the accountability and support of your entire family.

stitch

Not sure where to start?  Why not start here:

  1. Have family date nights.  Start with once a month and block the time to do something as a family.  Each month a different member of the family is responsible for planning the night.  It doesn’t need to be expensive – plan a hike and picnic, do a movie night in your living room, camp out in the backyard or have the kids make dinner.   The most important part is ensuring that ALL technology be “checked-in” at the beginning of the date – this is about connecting with family, not your email.powerpuff
  2. Get healthy together.  Start simple by identifying one night a week to cook healthy.  Again, rotate who decides what will be prepared.  Make sure that person is involved in the shopping as well as the preparation.  This one simple act will teach your kids so much about responsibility and planning and so much more.
  3. Pay It Forward. It’s so easy to get busy and wrapped up in our own lives that we fail to see so much around us.  What would happen if each of us decided to do something kind for someone else?  Make a calendar and identify what each person’s act of kindness will be each month.  It can be something as simple as carrying someone’s groceries for them, paying for the person in line behind you.  I just read about someone who taped a $20 bill to diapers at their local grocery store.  Can you imagine the unexpected gift of receiving $20 with your purchase?

Commit to making 2016 one that focuses on strengthening your family.  The rewards will be endless.  

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

What you said about your kids and chores!

We conducted a survey about your kids and their chores with our fans on Facebook and those of you who have joined our email list.  Since, we’ve reached the end the year, we’d like to share our findings with you.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

Kids and Chores

How to Raise Successful Kids

Raising Successful Kids

A recent article in Business Insider identified the 11 things successful kids have in common.  While a quick glance at some of the kids I’ve know during my time as a parent, I think that BI was spot on, though I have to admit that recently I believe many of the 11 things are growing noticeably absent from our current culture.
In the craziness of this thing we call “life”, we’ve pushed aside the fundamentals of raising kids of strong character and replaced it with a combination of excuses and manageable chaos.  Now that the holiday season has finally come around, here’s our chance to make the most of the opportunity to reflect and see if you can add these three parenting tips back into a daily routine for your family.

  1. Give Your Kids Chores – The lessons they learn over a sink of dirty dishes are priceless.  If you do it for them, they will grow up thinking the “not so fun stuff” is someone else’s job…translation – they could develop a sense of entitlement.  Doing chores gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment, something sitting in front of video games won’t do.

    chores

    They’ll get over the dishes.

  2. Teach Them Social Skills – I like to call this character building moments since learning how to share, treat others with kindness, or moving through conflict in a healthy manner all are critical to their ability to lead happy and successful lives.  Like building a house, it will take time and effort but through consistent learning opportunities (they can be fun), your children will learn these traits that will allow them to develop healthy social relationships that will make their lives now and later much more enjoyable.
  3. Develop Relationships With Them…translation – get to know your kids. All parents like to say they know their kids, but do you really? Let’s face it, if you have difficulty naming five close friends, a few teachers or what they do regularly after school, you can’t really say you know your kids.

The good news is that it’s not too late.  Make the time and start asking questions in order to find out what’s going on in their world.  Try catching up during the holiday break as you do some projects together.  Whether you talk while you rake leaves, play a game, cook or bake, the point is your are talking.

Raising successful kids doesn’t magically happen.  It is up to us as parents to begin bringing back the basics and find the time to prepare them for adulthood.  This may mean trading out those dance classes or sporting events for family time, however, in the end, these moments will be far more meaningful than any activity could ever be.  Start now!

bestparent

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

3 Ways to Not Lose Touch This Holiday

Family during Christmas

I LOVE this time of year!  From decorations to celebrating with friends, this season brings me so much joy.  Unfortunately it also brings families a tremendous amount of stress as schedules become crazy, homework becomes more intense and final grades are looming just over the horizon.  As a result, many families, without even realizing lose touch one with one another as the hustle and bustle of life takes over.

So, how can you avoid losing touch with your children during this time?  How can you remain engaged in their lives when their exhaustion and stress leave them entirely uninterested in communicating with you?

Here are a few simple steps:

  1. QUIT asking Yes/NO or closed ended questions.  I promise you that asking
    Talking

    They will talk to you.

    your child “how was your day?” or “did you have a good day?” will elicit very little in return.  Instead, ask them “what was the most awesome thing and the most awful thing that happened to you today?”  This question alone in my house often turns into a 20-minute conversation if you are willing to listen.

  2. Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights WITHOUT cell phones.  After all the distractions of TVs, phones and chores are gone, you are able to focus on engaging with your kids.  Talk about your day, celebrate your wins, talk about which house on the block did the best at decorating.  The topic isn’t nearly as important as simply engaging with your kids.  End the evening by grabbing some hot chocolate and voting on the winners.  You are not only staying connected but building lifelong memories together as well.
  3. As a family, DO SOMETHING for someone else.  Adopt a family, purchase food for the local food bank or volunteer to serve at the Ronald McDonald house.  You will be surprised what you learn about your kids, their stresses and their friends as you are bagging onions at the local food bank.  Not only will this bring you closer together with your kids, but also it allows you to put life and what really matters into perspective.

December is full of craziness and energy and doesn’t have to result in frazzled and disconnected families.  Use this time to draw your family closer and build memories that cost very little to absolutely nothing.

Family Time

Kathryn Prusinski is first and foremost a mom and wife who wants to do her part in building happy and healthy families. When she isn’t spending time with family, Kathryn is working as a consultant in strategy and leadership where she helps executives manage professional and personal success. You can find her every fall cheering on her OU Sooners in football. Kathryn believes it isn’t about abilities but our availabilities — so what are you doing to make yourself available to your family?

Don’t Let Moments To Teach Kindness Slip By You

listening

Have you ever formulated a plan, that at the time seemed incredibly wise but ended up being an idea that you are sure had to have been influenced by a lack of sleep or a brief moment of insanity?

Well that was me when recently I scheduled back to back sinus surgeries for myself and my daughter. Even more ridiculous is that I KNEW what I was getting in to – it was my second go at the surgery. I’ve decided however that much like your brain works with pregnancy, over time you forget about the pain and only remember the joyous outcome.   I forgot about my brain on pain meds, the anesthesia that takes days to wear off and the restricted activity that would keep me down…until the time drew near.

You would think based upon the above scenario that I would have willingly accepted the offers from friends and families to support us during this crazy time, but I didn’t. Here is what I’ve come to realize: In my quest to be self-reliant and independent (two badges of honor I wear), I have robbed my daughter of the opportunities to learn the importance of giving and receiving kindness. In pursuit of fortifying two values I deemed important, I all but wiped out the chance of learning about kindness.

Kindness is a trait that all of us will need to be able to freely give and receive at one point or another in our lifetime, but if we shut ourselves off from allowing others to give to us, how will our children ever learn this trait that has no doubt carried many of us through tremendously difficult times.

kindness

In those moments, I denied my daughter the opportunity to see the joy that comes from giving to others, the burdens lifted from a $5.00 hamburger or an errand run. She wasn’t able to sit down next to me as we wrote notes of thanks and talked about how awesome it was to have so many people in our lives that really cared. My choices kept her from being inspired to pay that kindness forward to others also struggling.

So where do you fall on the kindness scale? Do you purposefully identify ways to extend kindness to others? Do you allow people to show kindness to you or do you politely thank them but decline their offers. We need a more kind community and it doesn’t happen by accident.

I challenge each of us to be more open to receiving kindness – it is one of the greatest ways to teach our children its importance. A new app called Zingity starts in a few weeks and is designed to help kids develop good character by just being kids. It’s available for free from LeapSpring, inc., the same company that introduced us to MyJobChart.com.

 

The Importance of Parent Involvement in Education

parent involvement

 

Students achieve more when their parents expect more and research overwhelmingly indicates that parent involvement in their child’s education not only positively affects student achievement, it contributes to better performance of schools overall.  Yet both schools and parents struggle with how to make that involvement happen.

 

Benefits

Both students and schools benefit when parents are involved in education.  One study, conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory found that students whose parents are actively involved in their education are more likely to attend school regularly, adapt well to school, take advanced classes and excel academically. These students also tend to have better social skills, and they are more likely to graduate from high school and attend post-secondary school.  Benefits to schools include more successful academic programs and schools that are generally more effective.

 

School Support of Parent Involvement

Schools must actively recruit and support parent involvement if they want it. School leaders can invite parents to special events, informational workshops, and even school lunches. Teachers should provide regular communication to parents in terms of grade reports, behavior updates and class events. Teachers need to give positive and negative feedback about student grades and behavior and also offer productive options for what parents can do to be more involved.

 

Types of Involvement

One of the best ways for parents to be involved in education is to communicate regularly with teachers. Think of yourself as the teacher’s partner in managing your child’s education. Monitor your child’s homework and school projects, and make them a top priority in your schedule. Another way parents can be involved is to volunteer at the school. All kinds of opportunities exist, such as helping in the classroom, conducting fundraisers and assisting with extracurricular activities.  Attending extra curricular activities like sporting events, concerts, and award ceremonies is another great way to show your support.

 

Obstacles

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the rate of parent involvement drops to 55 percent by the time children reach age 14, and it continues to drop as children progress through high school.  It may be that programs specifically tailored to involving parents at school tend to decline as the students get older. One parent related that the older his children were their schools seemed to want money rather than parents involvement.  Another reason, may have to do with the stigma that teenagers are embarrassed by their parents.  To overcome this begin when they are young to develop a strong relationship and communication standard with them.  Then, when they are older, if they do prefer you not to attend a certain function, they will still know and understand your love and expectations for them, even in your absence.

More About Autism and How You Can Help

Autism

 

It is reported by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 1 in 68 American children are on the autism spectrum.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Studies also show that ASD is four to five times more common among boys than girls. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States.

Autism Speaks, the newest charity that can be found at MyJobChart.com, is in the forefront when it comes to increasing autism awareness and funding research.

ASD and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

Each individual with autism is unique. Many of those on the autism spectrum have exceptional abilities in visual skills, music and academic skills. About 40 percent have average to above average intellectual abilities. Indeed, many persons on the spectrum take deserved pride in their distinctive abilities and “atypical” ways of viewing the world.

Others with autism have significant disability and are unable to live independently. About 25 percent of individuals with ASD are nonverbal but can learn to communicate using other means.

Autism Speaks’ mission is to improve the lives of all those on the autism spectrum. For some, this means the development and delivery of more effective treatments that can address significant challenges in communication and physical health. For others, it means increasing acceptance, respect and support.

Some of the many resources you can find at Autismspeaks.org:

Apps that have been found helpful

Local and national events

Up to date advocacy news

Many online and other resources

The latest research and initiatives

New and ongoing clinical programs

Useful tool kits

Family services galore

And even an online screening for your child.

 

Research shows that early diagnosis and intervention with proven behavioral therapies can improve outcomes.  Autism Speaks is making sure that families develop and use critical advocacy skills in order to achieve this.

Sign up to MyJobChart.com today and share with Autismspeaks.org or make a donation today .

 

 

 

Living a More Simple Life

 

There’s a recent trend to live simpler and easier lives.

A little curious about how others do it, I did a little research on my own and ran across several stories.  One was about a woman that only possessed 1 pair of jeans and 2 shirts.  Another woman was in the process of making changes in her families places of work, school, and markets in an attempt to get rid of their only car.  And have you ever heard about having a buy-nothing Christmas?  There’s a thought, or should I say, a rebellion?

Dave Bruno, author and advocate for simple living has an idea as well.  It’s called “The 100 Thing Challenge”.

Bruno wanted to live a simpler, more meaningful life.  His solution was to narrow his personal belonging down to, yep, you guessed it, just 100 things.

What followed was a worldwide movement of people taking on the challenge to pick out just 100 things to live with – and give the rest of their possessions away.

Bruno says it wasn’t about the numbers though.  It was about becoming a person that could shake off the constraints of consumerism.  A person that was free to follow a satisfied life.

Comments showed that people believed that the challenge made them live more fully… giving them more time and space to do the things that were most important to them.  And that the challenge was inspirational and helped them improve their lives.

I have to be honest.  I don’t know if I’m up for “The 100 Thing Challenge”, but I am all about figuring out how to simplify life.

I’m convinced that we do not need stuff to be happy.  And although I’m not quite ready to reduce to the extreme that Bruno did, I’m looking forward to reducing to an extent.

If for no other reason than to change my attitude toward “stuff”.

How do you feel about simplifying your life and to what extreme are you willing to go?

 

 

Is Your Family Green?

  

We all want to protect our environment.  Every day people affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we live on.  How do we affect it?  By our choices.  Our choices determine how much trash and pollution we make.

What can we do to make sure that the world we live in stays beautiful?  A whole lot, actually.

1.  Reduce – Try to reduce the amount of resources that you use and throw away.  Take shorter showers, turn off the lights, and unplug items when not in use.  A big resource that we can try to safe more of, gasoline.  Try driving less.  Ride your bike or walk to the corner store or to school.

2.  Reuse – I’m sure you’ve heard the term “throwaway society”.  We are generally too fast to throw something away and buy something new to replace it.  Instead we can reuse grocery bags, donate unwanted items so others can benefit from them, use both sides of the paper etc.  Reusing items just makes sense.  It means one less thing that needs to be produced, packaged, and shipped to the store.  It also means less for you to buy at the store.  Did you know that during 2006, the city of San Francisco spent $500,000 on pre-packaged water bottles?  Crazy!  Lets all do our part by reusing our resources instead of throwing them away.

3.  Recycle – Recycling has never been easier.  Today, most of us can sit back in our lazy chairs while a truck picks up our recycling in front of our house.  By recycling bottles, cans, boxes, and more, you’re reducing the amount of trash that goes into a landfill.  Recycled goods go to a center where they can be broken down and later used for new bottles, cans, and paper.  Did you know that even water can be recycled?  Some communities take used water and clean it until it is safe and can be used for things like  watering lawns.

4.  Now Enjoy It! – The earth is a beautiful place.  Go out into nature and enjoy it!  Climb a mountain, watch the sunset, or just stop to smell the flowers on the side of the road.  The other day I came to a screeching halt on the side of the road.  The kids all asked me what was wrong.  I jumped out and told them to follow.  They thought I was crazy as we watched a centipede cross the road.  Don’t think you have to go far either.  Before you travel for hours to see different sights, take a look in your own backyard.  While you’re at it, plant a tree or a garden and enjoy yourself.

I’m sure if you examine your days, you’ll be able to notice several areas where you can be more diligent about being green.  Remember, even a little can help tons. 

 

 

The Number One Health Concern for Kids

 

 

Among parents in the United States, what’s the number one health concern for their children?  Hint, it’s not drug abuse or smoking.  It’s obesity.

Obesity among children is causing a broad range of health problems, that in the past, weren’t seen until adulthood.  These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, elevated blood cholesterol levels, negative body image, depression, and low self-esteem.

The former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona, stated the severity when he said, “Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”

Here are the facts:

  • Obesity rates among preschoolers ages 2 to 5 have doubled in the past four decades.
  • One in five children are overweight or obese by the time they reach their 6th birthday.
  • Over half of obese children first become overweight at or before age two.
  • Only 25% of children ages 2 to 11 years old consume three servings of vegetables a day, and less than 50% consume two daily servings of fruit.  (the recommended daily intake)

 

I don’t know about you, but personally, I am shocked at those numbers.

How, as a society, did we become so leisure about our health?

I suggest we make a goal this summer to become more active, eat healthier, and live longer.

So, what can we do about it?

1.  More Physical Activity – Encourage 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day, including outside play when possible.  And exercise with your children if possible.

2.  Less Screen Time – For children age two and older, the amount of screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics is 1-2 hours per day and for children under 2 they suggest no screen time at all.

3.  Eat Healthy – Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal.  Eat more green foods and limit fried foods.

4.  Limit Sugary Drinks – Encourage your child to drink water throughout the day.

 

Other free tools and resources can be found at www.HealthyKidsHealthyFuture.org.

Let’s all get up off the couch, get healthy, and be happy!

7 Ways to Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Another trip to the dentist and two more cavities to fill.  As a parent you probably feel frustrated.  After all, you are doing your part.  You take them to their 6 month cleanings and check-ups, you try to watch the sweets, and you nag them every morning and evening to brush.  Only to have more dentist bills to pay at the next check-up.

 

If only they wanted to brush, maybe it would be an easier fight.

 

Don’t despair.  My friend, Dr. Brandon Cluff, has some suggestions on how to get your kids to be more willing to take care of their teeth (and lower your dentist bills).

 

1.  Make their toothbrush a toy.  When kids are young, start them out by just playing with their toothbrush.  Let them chew and suck on it and become comfortable with it in their mouth.

 

2.  Let them pick out their own brush and character toothpaste.  They may not have a choice on whether or not to brush, but by giving them a choice of what flavor of toothpaste and color of brush to use, they still have some say in the process.

 

3.  Make it fun.  Play silly games or sing songs while brushing.  How about a game of “Get the Sugar Bugs!”?

 

4.  Brush at the same time.  Kids love to copy you.  Brush your teeth at the same time and show them how to get all the sides and angles by turning your brush or your hand.

 

5.  Compliment them.  Become the “Tooth Inspector” and tell them what a good job they are doing, how well they brushed their tongue, or how minty their breath smells.

 

6.  Give them rewards for brushing their teeth.  (But not candy! That kind of defeats the purpose.)  Fill up a sticker chart or make it part of their daily chores and reward them accordingly.

 

Read a related article here:  Encouraging Your Kids to Eat Their Fruits and Veggies

 

7.  Educate them.  Sometimes you’ll have better luck getting through to them if the direction doesn’t come from you.  Read books, watch videos, and have others (like grandpa who can take out his dentures in front of them) encourage them to take better care of their teeth.

 

Do you struggle to get your kids to brush their teeth?  Or maybe you’ve found something that works for you?  Share your comments below and let us know.

How to Raise a Boy

 

Boys in general are loud, active, physical, and competitive.  We tend to try and prevent this behavior, fearing that it will get out of hand.  But active behavior is not necessarily aggressive behavior.  Many times we punish a boy, just for being a boy.  If supervised and taught properly, their roughhouse play can be wholesome and even a positive outlet for their energy.

 

Provide a Positive Role Model

The best way to raise a great son is for that boy to have a great father.  “Men are extremely important in giving boys messages about being a man.”  Says Geoffrey and Michael Thompson, in “The Search for Masculinity: Growing Up Masculine”.  If there is no father in the home, maybe a grandfather, or an uncle, or even a teacher can be a positive role model for him.

 

Stop Bad Behavior Immediately

If their play is hurting someone, stop it immediately.  Set limits.  There is no reason or excuse to hit, bite, or push.  And “stop” means stop.  Help them find better alternatives to express themselves.  Encourage verbal expressions of their feelings.  Always follow through with consequences.  And punish without being abusive.

 

Give them Physical Outlets

Let them work.  Give them chores to complete.  It will build their character and their self-esteem (and release some extra energy).  Trust them and give them responsibility and then praise them when they follow through.  Help them grow by giving them a job that is a little bit bigger than they think they can handle.

 

Encourage Education

Many problems can be averted by reading and writing.  Find areas that they are interested in and encourage them to study them.  Support them at school and motivate them to further their education past high school.

 

Be Positive

Say “yes” more than you say “no”.  Give them the space that they need and encourage them to grow.  Catch them being good and praise them as often as possible.  But most of all, relax, have fun, love him, and show him that you love him!

 

Read a related article:  How to Raise a Girl

How to Raise a Girl

 

We want our daughters to grow into happy, healthy, beautiful, contributing, women.  We want them to walk tall and stand for something.  We want them to be smart and self-sufficient.  We want them to be better than us.  So what can we teach them as young girls that will mold them into strong and capable women?

 

Show her that you love her…just the way she is.

First and foremost, tell and show your daughter that you love and appreciate her.  Praise her not only for what she does but who she is.  Let her know that she is a good person.  If she feels loved and supported she will have a more positive self image.  Do things with her that she likes to do.  And expect great things from her.

Click here to read a related article:  Discipline vs. Love, 3 Words to Remember 

 

Shape her Character

Teach her that she is strong and capable and she can do whatever she wants to do and be whomever she wants to be.  Teach her to respect herself.  Girls that don’t respect themselves have a harder time withstanding peer pressure and standing up for themselves.  Help her become involved in doing good by serving.  Abraham Lincoln said, “When I do good, I feel good.”

Click here to read a related article:  Critical Lessons to Teach Your Children 

 

Help her be Self-Sufficient

Teach her to cook and clean and take care of herself and her surroundings.  Teach her the value of hard work.  Teach her the value of money.  Teach her how to run a household.

 

Emphasize Education

You’ve heard, “When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.”  Teach your daughter to read and write and spell as well as possible.  Help her to develop good study habits and a yearning for knowledge.  Encourage her to be creative.

 

De-Emphasize Appearance

Counter negative media with honest messages about her body.   Help her establish healthy eating and exercise routines.  Don’t compare her to anyone else.  Teach her good grooming skills and good manners.  Help her confidence grow by accentuating her best features.  And everyone looks better with a smile on their face.  Be more beautiful by being happy.

 

Teach her to be Emotionally Stable

Girls are often more emotional than boys.  This can be good because it helps them be more expressive, but it can lead to negative “drama”.  Help them to have a positive but realistic approach to life.  Help them learn to reason and use their common sense.  Help them learn discipline and self control, especially when it comes to mood swings.

 

 

In Honor of Financial Literacy Month, Stop Overlooking Your Biggest Investment (Hint: It’s not your House or Car)

 

 

You often hear that the biggest investment you will ever make is buying a home. That’s because it’s an emotional experience and involves very critical eyes. Hours of looking on the internet or driving around to see different neighborhoods takes a lot of time and energy and it should because it’s a big decision. In fact, in 2010 the median home price in the U.S was $222,000. That’s a lot of dough to plunk down at once. This is a long-term investment to provide shelter for your family and comes with an expectation if you care for it and improve it you will see appreciation in its value.

 

Then comes the second largest purchase – your car. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average price of a new car sold in the United States is about $30,000; the average used car is $11,850. Once again, hours searching on the internet, test-drives and time at the dealership quickly adds up. Buying a car is a spendy proposition, but it’s not anywhere near your biggest investment, none the less you have expectations for it to provide your family with reliable transportation for years to come and be worth something when it’s time to replace it.

 

Most people overlook their biggest investment. It’s one that is larger and more important than either of the previous two investments and it doesn’t come with granite countertops or leather seats.

 

Your Biggest Investment

Your biggest investment is  your KIDS! According to a 2011 USDA report, it costs $295,000 to raise a kid from birth to age 17. And that’s per kid! The sad news is that doesn’t even cover the cost of college. For an in-state 4-year program you can tack on another $68,524 or $154,356 for a private college. Where you live, your income level and the educational institution of choice can all make those numbers even bigger.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have kids. It simply means that we need to put these costs into perspective and start treating the price of kids with more attention to detail and a sharper eye on expectation for return.

 

So, what expectations do you have for the BIGGEST investment you will ever make?

 

As a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) I have spent my entire career counseling people on how to carefully select investments, pay close attention to them and make sure their portfolios are tweaked for maximum return. My clients have come to expect this type of attention to detail.

 

If you are like most Americans you don’t have a plan for the investment of your kids because it’s not a one-off transaction. Instead the cost is stretched over a 17-year period, and THAT’S THE PROBLEM. It’s money slipping slowly through our fingers over time. Buying a new pair of pants or another trip to get a haircut – it all slowly adds up.

 

So now that we know kids are the biggest investment you’ll make, how do you take charge to get the most out of your investment?

1. Make your kids aware

2. Make a conscious effort to share on big ticket financial items

3. Help them enjoy work and money

4. Don’t cultivate entitlement, tie work to reward

5. Consistency counts

 

Make your kids aware

The days of keeping hush-hush when it comes to finances are over. Ninety-five percent of parents feel it is their responsibility to teach their kids about money, but only 26 percent feel comfortable doing it. To reverse this trend, start with some small steps. Let the kids know how much the electric bill is next month. I did this last summer when our electric bill was over $700. Yes, we live in Arizona and the A/C seems to never turn off in August! However, by letting them know how much it costs, they were more mindful about not leaving the doors open and how they can do their small part to save.

 

Also, let them know how much it costs to fill the gas tank of the family car. In April of 2011, the average amount American households spent on gas was $368.09. That’s just one month. All that running around from soccer practice to school adds up. There’s a good chance you will get some raised eyebrows when you expose those figures. Kids are smart.

 

Share on big-ticket items

Make a conscious effort to discuss big-ticket financial items. Don’t be afraid to discuss your home’s value and mortgage with your kids. They can look it up on Zillow anyways, so forget the “50’s” mentality of “we don’t share family money matters with our children”. Start sharing this financial information with them and empower your kids. Don’t leave them in the dark. Kids can feel when there is stress in the home about money, so have a sit-down meeting and discuss openly the issues and work as a family on how to get through the hard times. Maybe it’s sacrificing the skiing trip or skipping dinner out on the weekends.

 

Once their eyes are opened to the costs of running a family and what it looks like to budget you’ll be surprised at how quickly they start learning how to make better money decisions. You’ll also start hearing things like, “Dad, that is a total rip off! Let’s not buy it here when we can get it cheaper somewhere else!”. These skills will last a lifetime. Get your kids to participate.

 

 

Help your kids enjoy work and money

Getting through college takes a lot of hard work, but studies show it pays off.  Median income for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $54,756. Compare that to $33,176 for a high school diploma. If you do the math on this over a 35 year career that’s an additional $740,000. For a master’s degree you can add another $400,000 over a career. That’s a pretty good return on some hard work if learned early. If kids are held to a high standard when it comes to helping around the house, being diligent in their studies or staying on top of their piano lessons they will learn to enjoy work. Will you hear some complaining along the way? Definitely, but it will be worth it.

 

Don’t cultivate entitlement, tie work to reward

When it comes to paying kids for their work, there is plenty of debate. The bottom line is that you can call it what you want: allowance, commission, work-pay, whatever… but it needs to be tied to family contribution and it needs to teach your kids something about work ethic. Giving allowance not tied to contribution only encourages the entitlement mentality. We do not need any more of that! Adults work to earn money  so  kids should learn this expectation as well. Have you ever been on a job interview where the employer offers you a salary and then never expects you to show up to work? It’s not reality and your kids should learn that early.

 

Don’t feel like you have to pay your kids for every little thing they do around the house. Of course some things are expected, but if it is above the call of duty make it worth it. As they work and you pay them for it, it will create meaningful conversations about contribution, hard work and how to make good financial decisions with their money, such as how much they should save, spend or share. Give your kids some jobs around the house where they not only earn a little money, but they can develop a good work ethic. Don’t let your kids sit around and plays video games all day and never learn how to contribute and become responsible. It’s a life lesson and one parents are responsible for teaching. Get them off the couch and let their potential blossom!  If you let them sit on the couch don’t be surprised if they’re still there when their 30! There is no better place to teach good money management lessons then in your own home.

 

Consistency counts

Don’t be hard-core one day and the next let everything slide. Stay strong and don’t give in. Once your kids learn your new resolve they begin accepting it as part of the routine where accountability and responsibly become a normal expectation. Repetition is the key to learning. Start them early with chores and family activities around the house that will help them learn how to be smart with money from a young age. This will pay big dividends down the road for them personally and for society as a whole.

 

Your kids truly are the BIGGEST investment you’ll ever make. The return on that investment won’t be seen immediately, but you’ll see glimmers of it as they grow. They’ll gain personal accountability, confidence and financial freedom. When kids leave home and know how to live within their means and not get suckered into bad financial products like high fee bank accounts and credit cards with hidden charges, when they know how to budget and talk about finances you’ll know without a doubt your investment paid off. We must pay more attention to our kids and inspire them to reach their potential. Raising your kids has a big price tag, but it’s worth every dime, especially when you start to see your return on investment and the responsible citizen they’ve become.

 

Encouraging Your Kids to Eat Their Fruits and Veggies

Is dessert the fun food in your house?  Do your kids skim over their meal just to get to dessert?  Or, maybe they just shove everything around (or feed some to the dog) to make you think that they have eaten enough of the “healthy stuff” so you’ll agree that it’s time for dessert?  What can you do to shift the scale and have happy vegetable eaters at your table?

It is recommended that half of your child’s plate be filled with fruits and vegetables.  Studies show that 22% of kids ages 2-5 meet these requirements, 16% of 6-11 year olds, and only 11% of kids ages 12-18 eat their recommended amount of fruits and vegetables a day.

 

Here are some ideas of ways to encourage your kids to eat more vegetables.

 

Make it Fun – Prepare fruits and vegetables in a fun way.  Cut them into shapes with cookie cutters or make pictures out of them.  Give your produce silly names like “mini trees” for broccoli. And anything mini, is always fun to eat.  Here are a couple of sites that I thought had some neat and fun ways to prepare your fruits and vegetables.

http://pinterest.com/clpage13/veggie-fruit-tray-display-ideas/

http://www.livinglocurto.com/2011/09/vegetable-trays/

 

Let Them Help – Kids love to go shopping.  Let them pick out the firmest cucumbers or the best smelling cantaloupe.  And when you get home, let them pick out what’s for dinner and help prepare it as well.  They may have more satisfaction eating it when they put some work into preparing it.

 

Explain What Healthy Is – Give them the details of the food you are eating.  I bet you’ll be surprised exactly what they are able to understand as far as calories, fat, and sugar content.   Make it clear why we try to eat more healthy and what happens to your body when you don’t.

 

Make it a Game –  Have a goal to introduce one new food every week.  Prepare it in different ways and see what everyone likes the best.

 

Make Healthy an Easy Option – Single serving packages of chips and cookies are usually the first to disappear from my pantry because they are easy to grab and go.  Instead prepare bags of cut vegetables, applesauce, or fruit cups that can easily be grabbed and they are more likely to be eaten as well.

 

Eat Healthy Yourself – Kids tend to mimic their parents.  If they see you eating healthy, it probably won’t be long until they are trying…and liking what you eat.

 

And if all else fails.

Hide Them! – Be creative with the addition of hidden fruits and vegetables in your meals.

 

 

Discipline vs. Love, 3 Words to Remember

All parents know that discipline is important.  And at the same time, we’ve all seen our children rebel because of our over protectiveness.  I can look back at life, especially as a teenager, and remember how restrictive I thought my parents were.  Now I find myself, imposing the same rules on my children and I can see them push back just like I did.  Is there a balance to be found between correction and love, and if so how do you find it?

Experts say that for every time you correct a child you should show them at least five expressions of love, warmth, and affection to counteract the discipline.  That means that every child needs five times as much love, support, appreciation, and encouragement as strictness, regulation, control, and punishment.

I don’t know about you, but I’d have to say that the show of love in my house is lacking according to that ratio.  How are you doing when it comes to telling your kids that you love them?  Here are three words to remember when it comes to love:

 

Appreciation:  Tell and show your children how much you appreciate them and the things they do.  Be specific, and look for things that you can do for them to show your appreciation.  Leave a note in their lunchbox or on the bathroom mirror.  Give them a reward in the form of a treat or a special outing.

 

Approval:  Tell and show your children that you approve and like what they do, and that you are proud of the things they accomplish.  Sometimes this may be difficult if your child is going through a difficult stage.  Try and find something, even if it is small, and mention that thing several times a day until you can find more things to show your approval of.

 

Affirmation:  Tell and show your children that you love them no matter what they do or don’t do.  Affirm to them that they are of enormous worth and value to you.  Let them know that no matter what choices they make, that your love is constant.  Let them count on that.

 

These three ways of showing love may seem similar, and in some ways they are.  But if you seek to separate the three and give your children appreciation, approval, and affirmation, they will be sure of your love.  And the plus is, they will likely respond better when you do have to discipline them.

 

New Year Resolutions for Everyone

 

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of many things.  Many people like to reflect on the previous year (or years) and see what has happened and where you are now in your life.  Many people make New Year Resolutions.  A resolution is a decision to do or not do something in order to accomplish a personal goal or break a habit.

What resolutions have you made?  What resolutions have your children made?  With the rise of discipline and behavior problems, childhood obesity, and drug abuse among our children the American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with 20 New Year Resolutions that you can encourage your child to make this new year.

Preschoolers

I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.

I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.

I won’t tease dogs or other pets – even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.

 

Kids, 5- to 12-years-old

I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only on special occasions.

I will apply sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.

I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!

I will always wear a helmet when bicycling.

I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.

I’ll be nice to other kids. I’ll be friendly to kids who need friends – like someone who is shy, or is new to my school.

I’ll never give out personal information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without my parent’s permission.

 

Kids, 13-years-old and up

I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day, and I will drink sodas only on special occasions.

I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition.

I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I will spend only one to two hours each day – at the most – on these activities.

I will help out in my community – through volunteering, working with community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.

When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find constructive ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or discussing my problem with a parent or friend.

When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.

When I notice my friends are struggling or engaging in risky behaviors, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.

I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without coercion or violence. I will expect the same good behavior in return.

I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco, drugs or alcohol.

I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

We hope that one of your New Year Resolutions is to have a happier, healthier, more organized home along with financial savvy kids.  Join MyJobChart.com today and we can help you stick to your resolution, and see results when you look back next year.