September 18th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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?
August 6th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
June 11th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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:
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!
May 15th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
April 30th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
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.
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!
April 23rd, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
April 18th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
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.
April 16th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
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.
February 26th, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
January 3rd, 2013 - Category: General Parenting
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.
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.