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    November 10, 2015
    Bringing Your Toddler Out To Eat

    About a month ago, my family and I went out for dinner for my birthday at a fairly nice place. Even though my nephew had been cranky the past week or so, we still brought him. And of course, he threw an absolute fit. The. Entire. Time. He’d settle down for about two minutes, enough for us to get a few bites in, before screaming his head off again. Nothing worked- not the crayons, not his toys, not even when the food arrived. Basically, for the whole meal, one of my family members was outside with him. I still enjoyed spending the time with my family, but it would have been nice to savor the food and not be constantly worried about the scene he was causing. And it would have been nice if everyone was present the whole time. Needless to say, he hasn’t been out to eat since. We’re waiting until he’s a bit older and can be taught basic table manners.

    And of course, toddlers just need patience and help. Not every day is going to be a complete meltdown day, and you just have to keep trying. If you are nervous about dining out with your toddler too, check out this post by Kristy at the Seven Graces Blog for tips:

    -Be prepared: bring snacks for them to munch on while waiting, crayons, paper, and other entertainment.

    -Keep the type of restaurant in mind- if it is a loud, family friendly place, you’re good to go, until they’re old enough to handle something a little fancier.

    -Practice going out to eat at home- so they know what behavior is expected of them!

    -Redirection games- if they start having a fit, do everything you can to distract them. Ask them to name the ABCs. Count to ten. They will often forget what they were upset over!

    Photo Credit: docmonstereyes 

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    November 2, 2015
    Ways To Show Your Kids You Love Them

    I’m a firm believer in the idea that spending too much time with a kid can never spoil them (spending too much money can, though). Kids absolutely have to know that they have a safe home with loving parent(s) to have normal, healthy mental development. And you don’t have to buy them a $200 bicycle, or a brand new Xbox to show that you love them. It can be as simple as reading a book together, or giving them a hug. What kids crave more than anything is quality time with their parents (until they become teenagers, anyway, haha.) Check out this list by Amanda at Dirt and Boogers for ways you can connect with your child today:

    -Tell them you love them every day.

    -Physically get down to their level, make eye contact when talking.

    -Ask questions about their stories

    -Put away the phone and computer

    -Play WITH them instead of watching them play. Dance, wrestle, sing, get messy, go outside, have fun!

    -Hug them every day

    Photo Credit: Chris 

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    October 6, 2015
    Random Acts Of Kindness To Do With Your Kids

    When I was in high school, one of my assignments for a class was to do a random act of kindness, then write a page about it. We drew an “act of kindness” out of a hat, then did what was written on it. Mine was to hand write a letter to three different people, and explain why I was thankful for them. I wrote one to my mom, one to my best friend, and one to my English teacher from the year before. It felt great letting them know how I felt about them, especially since I had never thanked my teacher (I think she improved my essay writing skills more than any teacher I’d ever had, and showed me how to think critically about anything I read). It was one of the best assignments I had ever gotten in school, and it taught me a lot. The point is, acts of kindness not only benefit the receiver, but also the giver. I think it’s a great thing to do with your kids; it teaches them to be kind to others, and helps them stay humble and grateful. Check out this list by Erica Layne at Kids Stuff World for ideas of acts you can do today:

    -Pay for the drive-thru order for the car behind you

    -Help someone load groceries into their car

    -Write a note of thanks for someone who serves you- a mail carrier, cashier, janitor, server, police officer, fire fighter, bus driver, etc. Go out and wave to garbagemen!

    -Write a note to a friend, family member, neighbor, or teacher.

    -Pick up trash in your neighborhood, at a park, or at a graveyard.

    -Tape change to parking meters or vending machines

    Photo Credit: strecosa 

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    October 1, 2015
    How To Make Time Spent With Kids Count

    It can be extremely easy to get stuck in a “kid watching” rut. You turn on the TV, maybe let them play with your phone or iPad, and basically just let them play by themselves. You let them play with their toys, or go outside and run around. You keep an eye on them to make sure they’re being safe, but only rarely actually get involved in what they’re doing. According to this post by Becky at Your Modern Family, most parents only spend 20 minutes a day on average actually playing with their children. Now, I know that our lives are busy and we have stuff we have to do, but what’s the point of it if you don’t have a good relationship with our kids? The best way to make that time count is by playing, instead of just watching. Here are some tips from the post:

    -Really get on the floor and play with them. Read to them, don’t watch them read. Dance with them, don’t watch them dance.

    -Schedule playtime if you have to. Mix it up if you get bored playing the same thing- introduce activities and games that you like to do!

    -It doesn’t have to be a MAJOR event! You don’t have to pack them up and head to the park or a football game. Just go to your backyard and throw a ball around with them. Sit at the kitchen table and play with playdough. They just want you. Be in the moment!

    Photo Credit: Bruno Caimi 

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    September 24, 2015
    How Siblings Can Help With A Newborn

    Going from “only child” to “oldest sibling” can be something of a difficult transition for kids. They’ve been the center of the universe for so long, and suddenly they have to share the spotlight with a new baby. It’s going to be scary and exciting for them at the same time, and all kids take it differently. One way to help ease the transition is by having the older siblings help with the new baby. It’s a great way to build bonds between siblings, even if one of them is a newborn. Check out these tips by Devany Ledrew at Still Playing School:

    -Comb baby’s hair

    -Fold laundry

    -Prepare snacks

    -Put on the baby’s bib, socks, and shoes

    -Spoon feed them

    -Blow bubbles, read books, play with baby

    Photo Credit: Ronnie Meijer

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    September 21, 2015
    Effective Discipline For Toddlers

    I consider myself to be a patient person (unless I’m driving. Seriously, how hard is it to go the speed limit and use a blinker??). I don’t mind long lines, waiting for my food at restaurants, or listening to a friend tell a story I’ve already heard. I’m not in a big rush to get through life, and I try to make time to listen to what people have to say. Well, I thought I was a patient person… until I lived with a toddler. He’s an angel 95% of the time, but he also likes to throw tantrums and deliberately test our limits. He fully well knows what “no,” and “stop,” mean- sometimes he just doesn’t care. But how do you discipline someone who is not even two years old yet? I’m not a fan of spanking or other physical punishment, especially on kids that young, and yelling just gets us no where. But you still have to do something to teach them the difference between right and wrong! Facing a similar dilemma? Check out this post by Shahida at Mom Junction for practical discipline strategies that work for toddlers:

    -Spare the rod- Your first step is to sit down with your child, and explain him the difference between good behavior and the bad, preferably along with their consequences.

    -Reward good behavior

    -Set ground rules- let your child know what your specific expectations are.

    -Give warnings before yelling or spanking- often, it will fix the behavior. Always remain calm and collected.

    -Be a role model- children model behavior that they see. Show him what good behavior looks like.

    Photo Credit: Philippe Put 

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    September 10, 2015
    Helping Your Kids Fall Asleep

    I’m really fortunate, so we’ve never had much trouble getting my nephew to sleep. He is one and a half, and has been solidly sleeping through the night since he was about 2 months old. He has a set bedtime each night, and we follow through on his routine. Sometimes, he fights it for a few minutes, but he’s always out like a light in no time. If you’re having trouble establishing a bedtime routine and getting your kid to sleep, check out this article by Lauren at The Military Wife and Mom for a great tip:

    All I do is take deep breaths myself, and then he follows. You see, deep breathing is just like yawning. It’s contagious! And it’s a completely subconscious cause and effect rhythm that you can fall into with your child.

    When hugging or cuddling in a way that is natural for you and your child, the deep breathing becomes contagious between you. All you have to do is start the rhythm and your child will pick up on it. This technique is something you can use at any age.

    Photo Credit : Brandon Atkinson 

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    August 24, 2015
    Helping Your Kids Get Along

    All siblings fight. It’s just a fact of nature. They’re just not always going to get along, and there will be occasional squabbles. And that’s fine- even healthy. Fighting and arguing at home helps your kids realize that that sort of behavior is unacceptable- it lets you teach them how to better handle their anger. But, if your kids are constantly screaming, yelling, punching, and kicking each other- at least once a day- then you have a problem. Check out this post by Autumn at It’s Always Autumn for tips on stopping the fights:

    -Don’t yell at your kids or your spouse- kids model behavior that they see.

    -Have a no tolerance policy for yelling, hitting, punching, saying mean things, etc. Have a consequence and enforce it every single time.

    -Help kids work out arguments on their own- be physically present and mediate.

    -Praise kids when they are getting along.

    Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus 

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    August 6, 2015
    “Helpful” Things Parents Say That Actually Damage Self Esteem

    Unless you’re insanely confident and unbothered by comments from others, chances are that your self esteem has taken a few hits over the years. While it’s good to have some humility, sticks and stones aren’t the only things that hurt. It can be a throwaway comment from a parent, teacher, friend, or coworker- but chances are, you still remember it, and it still stings. Often, the perpetrators have no idea how powerful and permanent their words have become to you. Most of the time, they even mean well. Check out this post by Wendy at Kidlutions for common phrases that actually hurt kids’ self esteem:

    -“Life Isn’t Fair”- When she hits bumps in the road, let your ongoing message be, “Let’s figure this out.  What can we do about it?”

    -Don’t constantly praise them- positive feedback is needed every once in a while, but a constant barrage is not good. Praise effort instead of passing judgment.

    -Don’t speak in a self-deprecating manner. Your child is watching and listening. How you speak to yourself becomes how they speak to themselves.

    Photo Credit: Roni Amin 

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    July 23, 2015
    The Positive Side Of Tantrums

    When your kid throws a screaming fit in the middle of the grocery store, or in the car, or in a crowded restaurant, there is no way that you could ever think that a tantrum could be a good thing. Kiddie meltdowns are one of the most challenging parts of being a parent, and it can be difficult knowing how to handle them. The important thing is to remain calm, don’t yell, and stick to your guns. The point is, tantrums are harrowing for all involved- you, your kid, and innocent bystanders. But, they are a normal part of childhood and growing up. It doesn’t mean you have a bad kid, or that you are a bad parent- they are just learning how to experience rage, disappointment, and other negative emotions. For more reasons why tantrums are actually a good thing, read this post by Rachel at A Mother Far From Home:

    -It means you’ve set a boundary- You need to risk making your child angry because you know what is best for them. Three brownies before bed is not a good idea!

    -It may mean that they’re testing you- They want to know if you mean what you say.

    -It gives opportunity to train your kids how to handle their emotions

    -It gives opportunity to show love after conflict.

    Photo Credit: Joel Kramer 

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