Archives for June 2013

Learning to Ride a Bike

Lucas ridingLucas is now riding a two-wheeler! It’s such an exciting milestone, and he’s so proud of himself. He lagged a bit behind his daredevil brother who was riding at age 4, but given that he didn’t walk until he was 20 months, it’s pretty good!

I have to share how I got my boys to ride a bike. When we bought the little 12″ bike from a bike store when William was little, the clerk gave us a great idea. He suggested that we forgo training wheels and simply take the pedals off the bike. This let him learn how to balance, and we didn’t have to shell out the extra money for a special “balance bike.” Brilliant!

At three years old, William was zipping around town on that little bike. He balanced perfectly, and he could go pretty fast. Once he was comfortable riding this way for several months, we realized that he was ready for pedals. So we put them back on, and after a two-minute tutorial on how to push yourself off first, he was riding!

It went exactly the same way for Lucas. It took a little longer for Lucas to get comfortable riding the bike without pedals. He’s quite a bit shorter than his brother, and I realized that once his feet were firmly planted on the ground, he was more confident. Also, by nature, Lucas is a much more cautious child.

Here's Lucas on the bike extension

Here’s Lucas on the trailer bike

I cannot tell you how great this method is. I have watched a couple neighbor kids learn to ride bikes. One learned with her grandpa holding her and running alongside. I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely not my preferred method. Another family left training wheels on, but took one of them off. That way, she learned how to balance, but whenever I saw her ride, I wondered if she was going to end up riding lopsided. It didn’t look natural.

The balance bike method is much better, whether you use a true balance bike or take the pedals off the child’s bike.

If you’re going to go this route with your child, I recommend getting a bike that is small enough so that the child can place his feet comfortably (or flat) on the ground. You can always raise the seat later to get more life out of it. As you can see, Lucas is getting a little big for the 12″, but he’s not super confident on the 16″ so I’ll give it another couple weeks until we switch.

Oh, and I’m a big proponent of quality bike shop bikes and helmets. We bought a bike at Target once, and William ended up with a fat lip after falling over the handlebars. And the one helmet we bought at Target lost its visor not long after we bought it. Bike stores cost a bit more, but it’s a safety issue, in my opinion. You can’t put a price on that. To save money, you might check Craigslist for quality bikes. We bought William’s Trek bike on Craigslist and saved about $100-150. Keep an eye out for bikes made by Trek, Giant, and Specialized.

While you’re out shopping, and if you’re a big bike-riding family, you might consider getting a trailer bike like the one pictured here. We went riding just the other day, even after Lucas learned how to ride, and we still used the thing. We can go longer distances at a faster pace if we’re not going at his 5-year-old pace. They aren’t cheap, so again, check Craigslist. People don’t use them for long, so they’re easier to find used. We bought ours from a friend.

Free Summer Planner Download!

Planner Cover image

Click to download

Homeschooling has changed me a bit, for the better, I think. It’s made me crafty! It has also encouraged the planner in me. So I created a free download for you!

Last Tuesday was our last day of school, and we had a very lazy week and tossed all routine out the window. I was feeling guilty about requiring “summer school” from my children, so I let them do pretty much whatever they wanted for three days as long as it wasn’t destructive. Well…it drove me nuts! There was a lot of TV and a LOT of asking for TV and devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.).

Well, it’s a new week! I set my guilt aside and decided to plan out our summer, school and all. As I think ahead to next school year, I want to teach William to be more independent with his studies, so I’m using this planner as a test. I plan to print it out and maybe have it spiral bound. Isn’t it cute?!

Included in the free download are the following:

  • Sample Schedule (Mon, Tues, Weds)
  • Sample Schedule (Thurs, Fri, Sat/Sun)
  • Weekly Schedule (Mon, Tues, Weds)
  • Weekly Schedule (Thurs, Fri, Sat/Sun)
  • Chore List
  • Virtue List
  • Allowance Checklist
  • Allowance Record

Sample schedule image

Click to download

Let me explain the two schedule types. At first, I created our schedule as you see in the Sample Schedule. Then I realized that I’m more likely to get him to follow it independently if he’s involved in the process of creating it. So I then made another version, the Weekly Schedule, which has many more blanks. I’ll go through it with him to fill it out.

You’ll see that the schedules are created for one week, and they have a virtue listed at the top. Again, I’m going to involve William in this. I’m going to have him decide which virtue he thinks he needs to work on for the week. He’ll then write it in at the top. He can refer to the Virtue List to decide.

And to motivate him in all of this, I’ve created a couple forms for allowance. We’ve done allowance in the past, but I’ve never been very consistent with it. This outlines exactly what needs to be done to receive an allowance, and it puts William in the driver’s seat. He’ll fill out the checklist all week long, and at the end of the week, he can come to me for his allowance if all of it has been completed.

There are a few other items I’m including in his planner (that aren’t in the download):

  • Monthly calendars for June, July, and August (just so he can see what we have planned). I created these in Word. Simple with the calendar template.
  • Library’s summer reading program sheet (yay!)
  • Year at a glance

If you have a child who you think might benefit from a planner like this, feel free to download. I’m giving you the PowerPoint file so you can modify it to suit your needs. Or if you don’t give it to your child to use, you might use it for yourself.

Note: This is for personal use only. Please don’t reproduce multiple copies or (gasp!) sell it.

Finding Support

Source: blog.timesunion.com

By Bethany Lynch, www.TheGracefulMom.com

No matter what parenting philosophy you choose or whether you work full time, part time, or stay at home, you need support as a mom. You need other women that can identify with who you are and what you do. You need a good foundation in your marriage and other couples to identify with, but there is just something about that friend or confidant that truly understands the core of what you believe.

There are a few things that I think will make your quest for these special ladies a little easier. True friendships usually take years to grow, but support systems are great because they can often be instant. Use caution in just jumping in to groups you identify with just because you identify with them. By taking these simple steps it is possible to form a deep and broad foundation when you need encouragement, inspiration, advice, or listening ears and eyes.

The first step is to look for several options or ways to find support. Be broad and be open. For me, I loved the Babywise series and identified with the goals immediately. However, I was completely lost as to how to troubleshoot when things weren’t perfect (can you say anxious first-time, high-strung mom?!) and where to find more information on implementing the broad ideas I read about. I actually “Googled” pro-Babywise and came across Valerie’s blog and found links to other forums. Some were easier for me to navigate or follow than others, but through one of those forums I met one of my dearest best friends. We are in very different roles. She works hard in the home and I work full time outside of my home. She’s preparing to homeschool and I had to find a new nanny recently, but we have kids of similar ages and very similar goals. We’ve made special plans to visit each other and have stayed in frequent touch for 5 years all because of a small forum.

Next, surround yourself with positive, similar women. Look for women older and younger and the same age, but make sure you choose wisely! It is so tempting to identify and associate with women that can relate to your hardships, but often this spirals down into venting, complaining, and occasionally even bashing. We easily jump onto the bandwagon when it is something we are passionate about, and while it is good to have strong beliefs, it is extremely worthwhile to hold to those beliefs with integrity. It not only sets a good example for your children but it sets a good example for people that don’t even agree with you. You are much more likely to find people that are supportive and encouraging even though you may not see eye to eye if you refuse to join in on criticizing others. I know women that can talk about child rearing, religion, schooling, healthcare, and all leave with a smile but I also know women that are so passionate about Babywise that you cannot even have a fair conversation about any other method.

I also believe that you have to actively find ways to support other women. You need to be a friend and encourager to others that have gone through similar hardships. You need to make an effort to inspire other moms to come together in support and community. It doesn’t have to entail starting a blog or a new forum. It can be as simple as asking someone to get coffee or as small as taking a meal to a new mom. I do know that you cannot always wait for someone else to step up, and you might end up being even more blessed than the person you sought out.

It’s is a cool, fascinating era when one can be part of a network of similar bloggers. I have met some absolutely amazing women through my blog and this network. Women that exist to speak positive, encouraging words. Women that support you whether you have a newborn or school age children, whether you have children with sensory disorders or severe allergies or no health issues. So thank you for being part of my support system!

How Do Your Kids Act When You’re Not Around?

Source: blendedfamilymoments.com

Don’t we all wish we could be a fly on the wall when our kids are in social situations with their peers? The way that our kids react when we’re not around is so important to their moral fiber. It’s also indicative of how we parent. If we tend to control our kids rather than guide them and let them learn, we are more likely to end up with kids who are outwardly obedient, yet inwardly defiant.

The Ezzos offer this as a warning flag in Parenting the Middle Years, the book that comes after Growing Kids God’s Way and On Becoming Childwise. (It’s directed toward parents of kids ages 8-12.) This is what they say about this warning flag:

“Warning flag one: your child does not follow the family standard outside of your presence (or the presence of others who know and represent your family values) …. When your middle years child becomes characterized by not caring who sees him or what he is doing, especially when he is around people who are familiar with your family’s values, then the child’s problem is one of shame — the lack of it,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 75.)

Essentially, our kids — no matter their age — should care what people think. If we know we have done our job in teaching them the way we think they should act, we can expect that they will carry this with them wherever they go. Some indiscretions will happen for sure. But on the whole, we should be able to expect that our kids behave appropriately.

So I suppose the question becomes, How do we find out how our kids act when we’re not around? Our friends can be very helpful in this endeavor. But more than that, listen intently when anyone comments on your child’s behavior. Ask questions. A mom from our homeschool co-op came up to me recently and told me how polite my kids are. Of course, I was appreciative of the comment. But I had to ask more. I wondered what the scenario was that helped her come to this conclusion. We are working on “thank you” at home as my kids seem to have forgotten the value of this phrase. But they almost always say “please” when asking for something, especially from a near-stranger. She also commented on how patient they were when or before they were asking for something.

You might also call upon other people in your child’s life: teacher, coach, scouts leader, etc. Ask them to tell you honestly how your child acts when you’re not around. Then ultimately, if you hear anything negative, you can make that priority number one in what you teach the child.

Parenting to the Lowest Common Denominator

Source: 123rf.com

For those of us with two or more children, we need to recognize that each child deserves different treatment and should be granted freedoms according to their age and level of responsibility. Many of us get caught up in parenting to the lowest common denominator. We treat them the same, and all freedoms tend to be guided by the responsibility of the younger child. The Ezzos call this parenting from the youngest up.

“The fear that the younger child will not understand or will seek the freedoms of the older child causes some parents to pull back on age-appropriate freedoms, creating a condition of frustration,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64).

Certainly, when we restrict our older kids’ freedoms simply out of fear of what we will have to say or do with the younger child, that older child feels frustration. While this is important on a day-to-day basis, it’s also important to parent differently from a philosophical level. As our children age, we need to parent more from the influence of our relationship and not by the power of our authority.

“By the time your kids approach adolescence, you should be well on your way to leading by your influence and less by the power of your authority. Too often the exact opposite takes place. Coercive parental authority is still the primary way of controlling the child. It shouldn’t be, and it will backfire on you. Do not parent your oldest child out of the fear of what the youngest might think,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64-65).

We have all heard about the pitfalls that parents run into when parenting out of fear. There’s the fear of what the child will say, whether he will obey, how big of a fit he’ll throw, and whether we’d be damaging the self-esteem. But no child wants parents who don’t have the strength to stand up to the child and do what’s right no matter how the child may react. Our children WANT boundaries, and they want freedoms and boundaries that are appropriate for them as an individual, not as part of a sibling unit.

So the next time you’re tempted to lay down a ground rule for your kids, stop and think about whether that rule should apply to both/all of your children. And by all means, if you’re headed into the middle years (starting around age 8), begin to shift your mindset and parent by the influence of your relationship, not the power of your authority.

What TV Do You Allow?

Little Bear!

I think we all know that we should limit the amount of time that our kids spend in front of the TV. But do you think twice about the quality of TV they watch? I don’t know about you, but my kids and their media habits seem to be maturing much faster than I’d like! They’d watch all of the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies if I allowed it! If I had it my way, they’d watch only Little Bear. It’s such a sweet little show with absolutely zero negativity. Even all Disney movies have some sort of villain. There’s no villain in Little Bear!

Despite the infatuation I have for Little Bear, I realize that my kids have graduated beyond the Little Bear age. There are times that I can get them to watch it still, but they would always choose something else. But it means there’s a job for me in this. My job is to watch the various shows they would want to watch and decide whether I should allow them. I’m fairly strict with what I allow my kids to watch, which I think is a good thing. It’s far better to be too strict than not strict enough.

Here’s what I don’t allow:

  • Harry Potter movies after the third. We require that the books be read before the movies can be watched.
  • Star Wars movies. They’ve only seen the first, and that was a special birthday treat.
  • Anything on Cartoon Network. I hate this channel. All of the cartoons available on this channel are dark and violent.
  • Any movie that I haven’t previously reviewed and approved
  • Spongebob Squarepants. Super annoying and mindless.

Here’s what I do allow:

  • Phineas and Ferb. This is their favorite show. I try to look past the tattling aspect of the big sister.
  • Johnny Test. I’ll admit that this isn’t my favorite, but it’s not violent, and they really do like it.
  • Anything educational. Think Super Why, or even documentaries/biographies on history topics like the Paul Revere one William once watched.

There are just two shows that we watch as a family:

  • The Amazing Race. We all LOVE this show and it’s pretty benign. Great for the whole family.
  • America’s Funniest Videos. We watch this on Hulu and Netflix.

And there are a few movies that we own, that I always approve of. (We wouldn’t have purchased them if I didn’t approve.) They are:

  • How to Train Your Dragon (great movie!)
  • Cars 1 and 2
  • Toy Story 1, 2 and 3
  • Horton Hears a Who
  • Curious George
  • Wall-E (a few scary elements, but okay overall)
  • A Bee Movie
  • Ratatouille
  • Up

I’d love to hear if you have any great (and innocent!) TV shows or movies you would recommend!

Hit the Reset Button

Source: gsdrew91.wordpress.com

Do you ever feel like you’re looking for life’s reset button? It’s so easy when our computers act up. We can just hit that reset button and start anew. If only we had a reset button with our kids. I’ve blogged before about the ebb and flow of parenting. There are days when we’re super committed to doing all that we know is right. Then after doing that for a while, our kids are super obedient and do all that we ask. Then, after a while of that, we take that for granted and become complacent in our parenting. Once we realize that’s what’s happening, we start fresh with our drive to improve our parenting.

Well, I speak from experience when I say that it can take a little longer than we’d like to realize that things have gone awry in our parenting. When this happens, and when we let it go too long, our kids’ behaviors can get really out of control. Of course, it’s not ideal to let this happen, but hey, we’re human.

When we realize that our kids’ behaviors have been out of control for a little too long, we need to hit that reset button. I’m sorry to say it’s not as easy as pressing a button, but I’ll offer a few steps here to get you back on track.

Sit down with your spouse

There are a few things we can do to hit that proverbial reset button. It all begins with a little planning. Sit down with your spouse and hash it out. Talk big picture about what you would like your kids to think and act like, and examine how far you are from that ideal picture. It can even be helpful to sit down and write out the characteristics you’d like to see in your child. Or reference an old list if you’ve done this before. Check off the ones that you currently see in your child. Then highlight those that still need work. Then start thinking about what it will take to get you there. Here are a few pointers:

Create a plan. Whether it’s a discipline plan, a reward chart, or some other system that focuses on the child’s strengths and weaknesses, having a plan is key. This plan can be in your head, but it’s often much more effective when it’s on paper.

Create a schedule. If you don’t have a schedule already, create one. If you have one, figure out where it’s failing you. Is it too detailed to realistically follow? If so, scale it back considerably. Personally, I have a hard time following a detailed schedule. I like to plan things around breakfast, lunch, and dinner since they are typically all at the same time every day. Be realistic with yourself and the schedule. When in doubt, start small.

Examine your weaknesses. This is a hard one. But look long and hard at yourself and try to examine where you might have gone wrong. Personally, I have a hard time “meaning what I say.” I tend to spout out instructions without really listening to myself. This ultimately leads to a lack of follow through. As for my husband, he probably threatens consequences too much. We all need to realize that actions speak louder than words. No matter your weakness, pick one and write it down. And work on that one only. Once you see improvement in yourself, you can start working on any other weaknesses you may have.

Sit down with your child

If your child is of the age where he can understand (or even if he isn’t) sit down and explain your new rules. Inevitably, life will look a little different after you go through this exercise. Why not explain it all to the child. Prepare him for the change. And above all, explain the behavior you expect of him. If you’re working from a reward or discipline chart, show it to him. Read it over and explain it all step by step.

Evaluate your progress

In the business world, they call this a “post mortem.” After every project, we examine how it all went and what we might improve for next time. Even better than having a final evaluation of your progress, set a few milestones along the way that will tell you how you’re doing. Schedule a time to meet with your spouse, perhaps a month after your first meeting. Have a list of your milestones and evaluate each one. One of your milestones might be your consistency with a schedule, or following through on everything you say. Be honest with yourselves. And let your spouse be critical so you can improve. Always see your spouse as a partner in this effort, not an adversary or critic.

There’s probably a lot more I could say about this, but I’ll stop here. Perhaps in future posts, I’ll dig a little more into the nitty gritty on how you can hit that proverbial reset button with your kids. Wherever you are in this process, realize that you’re never alone. Read more of my blog. Lean on your spouse. Enlist the help and support of friends. It takes a village!

 

What’s Your Summer Schedule?

Source: navigators.org

If your kids are of school age, you know what it’s like to have the kids home for the summer. Many schools are already out for the summer. Ours are not, and as we are homeschooling, we’ll continue for another week or two. Summer can bring a welcome relief. There’s the relief that comes with no lunch packing, no homework, no early mornings, etc. But there’s also that little bit of uncertainty that comes with having the kids home all day. Again, this won’t be a big change for us, but I know what it’s like, considering that both of my boys were in school last year. Any change in routine brings a bit of uncertainty and potential for mischief.

Let me tell you that now more than ever, you will need to structure your child’s day. Don’t wait for the child to get into trouble. Don’t wait for him to be bored. Don’t wait for him to come to you every five seconds asking you to play with him. Stock your playroom with new, stimulating, and educational toys, and sit down and write out your schedule.

I wrote about this very topic this time a year ago. Take a look at what I had to say then. You’ll see the idea is essentially the same:

Many of us are heading into the last few weeks of school for the year. My boys get out of school on June 13. That’s just a few weeks before we will be forced to make some routine adjustments. While I look forward to having them home, I know that I will have to structure our days, or else they’ll end up getting into all kinds of trouble!

I had a rude awakening just the other day. I had to get some work done after they came home from school. You would have thought a tornado had run through our house! My husband even asked what happened. If I had just taken a few minutes to put them in roomtime or sibling playtime in one of their rooms, they would have caused far less mischief (and mess).

So save yourself this hassle all summer long. And no, you don’t need to be running all over town driving from one summer camp to the next. Just structure your days at home. Read more for some background on structuring your day and creating your schedule.

If you’re not one to follow a strict schedule, just jot down a few items and when they’ll take place. They might include:

  • Regular meals and snacks
  • Roomtime
  • Sibling playtime
  • Naps/quiet time (depending on the age of the child)
  • Reading time
  • Couch time
  • Chores
  • Bath/shower

I would advise you to have just these basics down every day. If those don’t quite fill your days, other schedule items include:

  • Classes: art, music, etc.
  • Library story times
  • Outside play (This can be so important for quality sleep, it might belong in the must-have category.)
  • TV/computer time (Keep it limited.)
  • Mom time
  • “Summer school” (Don’t let their brains rot over summer! Research homeschool websites for ideas. There are a ton of free resources out there.)
  • Time with friends (Schedule weekly play dates.)
  • “Field trips” like zoo, museum outings

Also, think about any skills you might want to teach your child over the summer. Your days will be less chaotic than school days, so you might want to take the opportunity to teach your child how to tie his shoes, properly brush his own teeth, ride a bike, organize his toys, cook a meal, write letters to grandparents, and more.

Take the time now to create your summer schedule!