Archives for July 2012

Parenting the whole child

How balanced is your parenting? Do you parent the whole child or do you tend to favor one aspect of the child’s development over another?

In On Becoming Childwise, the authors urge us to parent all four general capacities of our children. The four general capacities are as follows:

1. Physical. It is our duty to nurture and provide for our children’s physical growth and well-being. This includes not only basic food, clothing and shelter, but also healthy eating habits, regular exercise, good hygiene, and all other things related to their little bodies.

2. Intellectual. The authors say that we are required to provide “basic skills, logic, and useful knowledge.” But I would extend this to say that we need to determine how our children learn best. Whether our kids are educated in preschool, private school, public school or homeschool, we need to do more than simply accept the cultural norm. Find the education solution that works best for the individual child (within the context of the family situation, of course).

3. Emotional. I’m a little troubled by what the book says in regard to this capacity: “Parents help their children establish internal controls over both positive and negative emotions,” (p. 66). Maybe I’m misreading it, but it sounds to me like they’re saying our children need to learn to suppress their emotions. I think parenting our children’s emotional capacity is all about accepting our children’s emotions, no matter what. If my child is physically hurt, I’m going to let him cry. Or if a friend intentionally excludes my child in play, I’m going to acknowledge the sadness that it caused. It’s all about showing that emotions are a normal, acceptable part of life. Parenting in this area is also about showing patience and empathy for others. This can be done through modeling this for them, teaching through direct instruction, and correcting behaviors that go against this goal.

4. Moral. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement: “The duty of a parent is to help his or her child internalize virtues that reflect the values of the family and society,” (p. 66).

But ultimately, no matter how we address each area of parenting, we must find a balanced approach. There are some kids who may need more attention in one capacity than another, but we must still address all areas. To spend all of our time and effort helping the child’s intellectual growth while neglecting any moral teachings represents unhealthy, unbalanced parenting. The same holds true for focusing on moral teachings over emotional attention.

The book sums it up nicely:

“All four facets receive attention. None should be neglected, underdeveloped, or overemphasized. Why is that? Because competence and character go hand in hand. You do not want to raise a smart child who lacks integrity. Nor do you want a great athlete with a shallow intellect. Academic skills without values, values without healthy emotions, happy feelings without productivity, and physical stature without moral wisdom all represent developmental imbalances,” (p. 66).

Stop for a minute to think about how balanced your parenting may be. Do you tend to favor one capacity over another? Does your child require more attention in one area than another? If so, are you able to balance out the other areas? Is any imbalance caused by you, society around you, urgings from family members or friends? If so, don’t be afraid to go against the grain and stand up for a whole child parenting approach.

See my rain gutter bookshelves!

In the past, I’ve talked about creating reading nooks throughout the house to encourage our kids to read. If we surround our children with books and create cozy spots for reading, they’ll be more likely to read. Simple as that!

One fantastic way to encourage reading is to ensure our children can see the covers of their books, not just their spines. Rain gutter bookshelves are the perfect solution! I wish I could claim the idea as my own, but nonetheless, I have them in my house! My husband and I took a trip to Home Depot, and $50 and 2 hours later, we had rain gutter bookshelves.

Here’s how it looks:











The rain gutters are on the far wall. They do rise above my kids’ heads, but it hasn’t been a problem so far. They can either stand on a kid-sized chair or ask a parent to get any book that’s out of reach. Notice that I still have a regular bookshelf there. The rain gutter shelves only hold so many books, so I will regularly rotate out the books that sit on the rain gutters. Any library books will also go on the rain gutters.

These shelves achieved exactly the effect I was looking for. My kids were so excited to see their books! They spend much more time reading than they used to. It even worked with a 7-year-old friend who came over. Despite all the toys she knew were there, she chose to read.

If you’re looking to do this in your home, you might consider making 2 or 3 longer shelves instead of 4 short ones. The wall we put them on extends out only a few inches from what you see here, so we were limited. This would save you some money. Oddly enough, the actual 10-foot gutter was only $5. But at $7-10 each, the end caps and support hooks added up. So if we did two fewer shelves, we would have used fewer end caps and fewer hooks.

And just for fun, I’ll show you the rest of our playroom makeover. Our playroom is actually the formal living room in our house; it got very little use before the kids were born. Over the years, the kids have collected so many toys, and while the bins and bookshelves were great for a while, they just got too overwhelming. I even created little labels with the name of the bin and a picture of the bin category, so anybody who can’t read the label can see the picture. But the toys and books just started overflowing, and I was the only one who put the toys in their appropriate bins.

My solution? Repurpose the armoire that used to hold our old TV (before we got a flat screen). Thanks, Mom, for convincing me not to get rid of it! It’s amazing how many toys fit in that thing! Almost every single toy you see in the “before” picture is in the armoire. The mini-trampoline got relegated to the garage, as did the Lincoln Logs that collected dust. But everything else is there!

As embarrassed as I am, here’s the before picture (in all its messy glory):








And here’s the after!















There’s still a box of trucks on the floor that I need to get another bin for. It turns out that Bed Bath & Beyond no longer sells the bins I use, so I have to decide if I’m okay getting a bin that looks slightly different than all the others. I suppose that now that they’re all in the armoire, it doesn’t matter much.

Impromptu roomtime


Are you home with preschoolers who seem to get into everything? Do you have school-aged kids who complain of summer boredom? We all know that structuring our day can limit boredom and keep little ones out of mischief. And roomtime is a crucial component of any child’s day. That small amount of alone time that can be had through roomtime can do wonders for you and your child. It helps us all recharge our batteries.

But what about those times when we all need roomtime but it’s not yet scheduled for another 3 hours? Is it okay to send the kids to their rooms for an impromptu roomtime? Yes! There are days in every child’s (or adult’s) life when we need more solitude than we’re getting. This is particularly important for the introverts in your family. Say you spent the entire morning at the local children’s museum. Your introverted child will crave roomtime to recover from the morning. It’s okay if roomtime isn’t scheduled until after snack. Let the child have an extra roomtime session after lunch.

Or maybe you’re having 6 of your closest friends (and their children) over for an hours-long play date. This can be overwhelming to an introverted child. Let him have a little bit of roomtime during the play date. Allowing your child to disappear for 20-30 minutes is much better than the attitude issues you’ll have to deal with if you don’t let him have that alone time.

I’ve also found that roomtime can help keep my boys from getting too rowdy. I’m all for letting my boys get on the floor and wrestle, but it needs to be in a somewhat controlled environment with parents watching closely. If my boys are in the playroom and their free play has turned into wrestle-mania, I’ll send them to their rooms for roomtime. I make it clear that it’s not a punishment. They just need that time to calm down and have some time apart. Besides, when they start up with the physical play, it usually means they’re bored. If I don’t have some other activity at the ready, roomtime works wonders.

So no matter what you’re doing with your day or where you are in your schedule, let your kids have an impromptu roomtime whenever it’s needed. And always be on the lookout for attitude problems that could easily be solved with an extra session of roomtime. Whether you’re at the museum, have a play date or even spend the afternoon running errands, let your little ones recharge their batteries in roomtime.

Let them interrupt while you read


In general, we try to discourage our children from interrupting. Whether we’re talking to another adult or busily tending to another child, we encourage children to wait. The interrupt rule is a great tool to teach our children to interrupt politely.

But there is one case in which I say interruption is warranted, or even welcomed. That is when we are reading. Too often, we shush our children during a story so the story can be more fluid and so we can just get on with it. But I have learned that it’s beneficial to allow a child to interrupt my reading.

When I allow William to interrupt while I read, he asks all sorts of questions that help him fill in the blanks. It enables him to better comprehend the story. Just tonight, as I was reading Alice in Wonderland (and reading it slowly), he asked several questions:

  • Can the Queen be a mom?
  • What is a Duchess?
  • What does execution mean? (The Queen always shouts “off with her head!”)
  • What is a Griffin?
  • What does mock mean?

I love that he reads over my shoulder as I read because he can see the words that he doesn’t know the meaning of. He can see that it clearly says “mock” and he  doesn’t know what it means. It’s not a matter of him misunderstanding the word or hearing me wrong as I read. The next time he encounters the word, he’ll know what it means, and he’ll also know how to read/pronounce it correctly. (By the way, the Kindle is great for this because if I don’t know what a word means or I can’t find the right words to describe it, I can call up the Kindle’s dictionary, and it gives us a definition right then and there.)

As we were reading tonight, and as he was interrupting, he realized something funny (which I think is so cute). The Mock Turtle was telling his “history” to Alice and the Griffin, and he warned them not to say a word until he was done with his story. Well, Alice didn’t heed that and asked the Mock Turtle all sorts of questions. William thought it was funny that he was interrupting me just like Alice was interrupting the Mock Turtle. Cute.

So whenever you read, allow your child to ask questions to ensure he comprehends the story. And if he doesn’t ask questions, you might even say, “Do you know what a Queen is?” It’s important to know if they are truly listening and attending to the story.

Also make note of where your child is in the process of learning to read. If, like William, your child knows how to read, you might point out long, difficult words to show him what the word looks like as you pronounce it. If, as with Lucas, your child is just beginning to put sounds together, you might point to the letters as you sound them out slowly. I also take the time to point out some sight words. We’ve been learning “is” and “the” recently. But of course, don’t make learning to read the focus of your story time. Allow your child to enjoy the story.

Summer break!


It’s time for me to take a much-needed break from blogging. Vacations, work and a traveling husband leave little time for blogging. I’ll be back next week!

In the meantime, keep practicing your first-time obedience training and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear about any tips or tricks you’ve picked up along the way.

Also, if you have any requests for topics you’d like me to address when I return, please let me know! Here are a few ideas:

  • First-time obedience
  • Child-centered parenting
  • Freedoms and the funnel
  • Repentance, forgiveness and restoration
  • Natural and logical consequences
  • Moral training
  • Education

There’s so much I could cover! Let me know what you want to hear about. See you next week!


Babywise Week: Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
· Tuesday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Wednesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Thursday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Friday: Maryea, Happy Healthy Mama


Today’s post is brought to you by Maryea from Happy Healthy Mama. Look at this dessert! Doesn’t it look amazing? Maryea is an inspiration. Her blog has loads of healthy recipes. For any of you stuck in the chicken nugget rut, take a few pointers from Maryea. I’m happy to say I don’t feed my kids chicken nuggets and we have a very healthy diet. But honestly, it was forced upon us by food intolerances and blood sugar instability. Lucas, whose only intolerance is dairy, has been known to eat a burger or hot dog or two. Gasp! I need to break this boy of his comfort food habit.

I am so tempted to make this pie for my family! It’s free of gluten, soy, dairy, nuts and eggs. I can eat this! Sadly, the main ingredient is bananas, and oddly enough bananas are on William’s intolerance list. Would it be cruel to make it and not let him eat it? :)


Babywise Week: Dating your Children

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
· Tuesday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Wednesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Thursday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Friday: Surprise Guest Blogger

In today’s post, Bethany talks about the importance of having some one-on-one time with our children. She says it makes for some very special conversation and even helped eliminate jealousy when a baby sister came along.

I’m so happy to have read this post! I admit I need to do a better job of setting aside time for just one child. My boys love each other and love to play together so much that we always keep them together whenever we’re making plans. In fact, I’m not sure how well my kids would do on dates if the other wasn’t there! There would be an adjustment period, I’m sure. But I would love to achieve some of the benefits Bethany has achieved while “dating” her children.

To see Bethany’s post in its entirety, go here:

Savor books by reading slowly


Do you read to your kids every night as part of your bedtime routine? I just figured out a trick that will help you and your child not only enjoy your reading time, but also learn something from the books you are reading.

I discovered this trick quite by accident. I recently finished reading Nim’s Island to William, my 7-year-old, and I was shocked by how little of it he actually comprehended. This is my smart boy, but at the end of the book, he was asking basic questions about the main characters in the book.

He has always read more fluently than he comprehends. He can sound out any word you put in front of him, but getting him to understand a long, complicated story is a different endeavor.

I realized two reasons behind his lack of comprehension during bedtime reading. 1) It’s always late and he’s tired. There’s nothing much we can do about this other than supplement our reading time during the day. I still think bedtime reading is important. 2) I always read too fast! I read at a pace that’s more suitable for myself than a 7-year-old, and since I’m at the end of a long day, too, I want to read and be done.

What an epiphany! Just by reading more slowly, he’ll get more out of our reading time.

When we finished Nim’s Island and were ready to start a new book, I pulled out my Kindle and let him choose from 3 books I already had loaded. They were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Alice in Wonderland. He immediately chose the latter (partly because he has a cousin named Alice). Well, since it’s an older book, I didn’t expect it to go very well. But with my new idea to read slowly, we were going to give it a try.

He is really enjoying the book! And not only is he enjoying it, he’s learning some fantastic vocabulary words. Just in chapter 3, which we read last night, we came across these words: consultation, familiarly, anxiously, usurpation, conquest, accustomed, melancholy, advisable, insolence, adjourn, offended, and despair. Even Shakespeare is mentioned. All this from a children’s book!

The more slowly I read, the more likely it is that he will pick up on these words (either by asking their meaning or taking them in context). Plus, William has always been able to spell at the same level he can read. So not only is he being exposed to this rich vocabulary and learning the meaning of new words, but he is likely learning to spell them. (It helps that he reads over my shoulder as I read.)

In The Read-Aloud Handbook Trelease talks about the importance of reading slowly:

“The most common mistake in reading aloud—whether the reader is a seven-year-old or a forty-year-old—is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read. Slow down enough for the children to see the pictures in the book without feeling hurried,” (p. 76-77).

One of my favorite homeschool bloggers has discussed the idea of savoring books. She says:

“Instead of reading a book or two a week and then going on to the next one, my children started several books at the same time but read them slowly over a 10-week period or longer.

I began to notice that my children were talking at the supper table about the characters and episodes in the books they were reading. They were acting out those stories with each other and including them in their playtimes. They even began to write their own stories, without my prompting, by copying the main idea and style of the book they were reading. Wow! My children were enjoying their books much more since they had time to ruminate and live with the characters and ideas expressed within the pages. Not only that, they remembered, and still remember years later, little details about those beloved stories. I realized that deep and lasting learning was taking place in a delightful, non-hurried manner.”

I love this! I’ve also read that we should leave our kids wanting more. Read a chapter and be done. Let them sit with it for a day before moving on. And rather than reading many books quickly and considering it a source of pride, we will now be reading slowly and savoring, enjoying, and learning from every page we read.


If you haven’t read my post on raising a voracious reader, go check it out. It’s full of tips on how to improve reading time with our children.


Babywise Week: What Dads Want Moms to Know

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
· Tuesday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Wednesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Thursday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Friday: Surprise Guest Blogger

In today’s post, Hank has a plea from dads to moms. I love this post. It’s interesting to see things from the perspective of a dad. And Hank presents it all so humbly. Here’s an example:

“We do need to be asked for help. Honey will you _____? (fill in the blank with whatever task needs to be done that you think we should have already realized, but haven’t.)”

My husband has said the same thing. I tend to skirt around requests because I don’t want to ask too much of my husband, or I don’t want it to seem like I’m being demanding. My husband has said he hates it. Apparently it’s a male thing. I should just spell it out and spell it out clearly.

It’s also really good to know that dads need our guidance. I love that Hank gets lost in play with his kids. I wish I could say the same of myself. But I suppose that gets to the crux of his post. We moms are the ones who keep our kids on schedule, feed the healthy meals, etc. We can leave the dads to simply play with their kids, but we also can’t be shy to remind them when meals and bedtimes need to happen.

Great post, Hank!

You can read Hank’s post in its entirety here:

Babywise Week: Pregnancy and Guilt

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom 
· Tuesday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Wednesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Thursday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Friday: Surprise Guest Blogger

In today’s post, Valerie discusses the difficulty many moms face while pregnant. For moms like Valerie, pregnancy takes a heavy toll on our bodies, and when we’re not feeling our best, we’re not always available to our children.

I can relate to Valerie’s post. My body handles pregnancy pretty easily, but Lucas, my second, was born while my husband was serving a tour of duty in Kuwait. My husband left in June, and William and I had all summer together, just the two of us. But September came and everything changed. My mom moved in with us, and Lucas was born in early October. I remember asking my mom, “What have I done?!” I felt so incredibly guilty. Not only did William lose his daddy (temporarily) but he also lost me (as I was consumed with the care of a newborn). To top if all off, Lucas had two hospital stays, one when he was 2 days old and another when he was 2 months old. Of course, William is no worse for the wear. In fact, he’s much happier having a brother who is close in age (closer than if we had waited for my husband to return from Kuwait). After expressing my guilt to my mom, she consoled me by saying that I had just given William the best gift I could have ever given him. It’s so true!

To read Valerie’s post in its entirety, visit Chronicles of a Babywise Mom.