Tag Archives: kids

What a Mom Should Do at a Park–An Official Guide

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I was wasting time on Facebook the other day and saw a blog post with lots of comments. I think it was called, “To that mom on her cell phone at the park,” or something like that. The writer proceeded to bash this unknowing mother for her lack of parenting finesse. How dare she go to the park and then text her friends, ignoring her children? Didn’t she know how fleeting childhood is? Blah, blah, blah.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the mom who’d written the post. Didn’t she have better things to do than judge other moms? Like, play with her own kids, for example? There’s this thing called karma–what goes around comes around, and I hope that hostile soul wasn’t trying to validate her insecurities about motherhood, or something psychological like that.

I’d guess that the poor cell phone mom, unaware that she was being slandered across the world online, had had a rough day. Maybe she’d taken her kids to the park as a last-ditch attempt at sanity, relieved for a five-minute break. Maybe she’d been waiting all day for an email from her deployed husband in Iraq, and wanted a little peace to read it alone for once. Or perhaps she was newly pregnant and morning (afternoon and evening) sick, and the park was the only place her kids could be entertained while she sat down to rest. Who knows? Even if she was texting her friends–does it really matter?

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s self-righteousness. And I’m beginning to think all of us moms are guilty to some extent.

Guys are so different from girls. Go to a gym and watch men lifting weights, and I guarantee you’ll laugh. Girls at the gym look at other girls in disdain, sizing up their competition and wishing they were skinnier (or bigger-breasted, or blonder, or tanner). Guys just grin at themselves in the mirror and admire their own muscles. They don’t care about the guy a few feet away doing the same thing. Men don’t have to shove others down so they feel better about themselves (usually). They just live their lives. Dads don’t look down at other fathers at the park, whispering to themselves, “I’m so much better than him, because he only brought a frisbee. I brought my entire garage’s worth of balls and bats. I should write a Facebook post about this. Hello, Father of the Year!”

The other day, I had a conversation with some girl friends and discovered something. Every single mom had a different opinion about what to do at a park. One said that was the only time she had to catch up on emails and texts. I said I was more likely to make a fool out of myself chasing my kids around, pretending to be a crocodile. Another woman chuckled and said she liked to sit on the bench and make fun of moms like me, and still another said that she wished she could play with her kids, but she usually ended up on the bench in an exhausted slump. So which was the better mother?

IT DOESN’T MATTER. We’re all great mothers, and we all love our children. How do I know? Because we all take our kids to the park! If we weren’t good parents, we’d lock our kids in a dark basement instead. We use different methods and have differing opinions, and that’s fine. Rather than looking down our noses at each other, or wishing we were more like other moms, why not sit by another mom on the park bench and ask her how old her toddler is? Or allow other moms’ kids to join us in our crocodile game so other moms can have a break (and make fun of us to their friends as they text)? Why can’t we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down? Being a mom is hard. It’s teeth-gritting, hair-pulling, never-ending diet hard. It’s difficult enough without people judging every move we make. Especially at a community park, for goodness sake.

I, for one, pledge to reject the feminine sense of competition. I will strive to never again judge the child-ignoring mom at the park (with the exception of the ones who pretend not to notice when their kids are being dangerous bullies–that bugs me to no end. But anyway). Instead, I will reach out and lift others. I’ll teach my kids that being nice and making friends doesn’t end when they leave elementary school, and even a tired (exhausted) mom can make a difference in someone’s life. Who knows? Maybe someday, when I’m that half-awake woman sprawled out on the bench, someone will return the favor for me.

Gotta love karma.

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3 Powerful Rules for Raising a Grateful Child

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“Mommy, I want one, too,” my five year-old said as he watched me give a piece of toast to his big sister. I resisted the urge to correct his manners and whipped it up. When I set it front of him, his mouth turned into a pout and he said, “No! I wanted a bigger one.”

Does this sound familiar? This happened just this morning, and when he said it, I knew I had to write a blog post about it.

The thing is, I’ve taught them manners since infancy. I’ve read them the manners books. I’ve enforced the “magic word” and insisted on gratitude. I even model good manners, hoping they’ll pay attention. But after that scenario this morning, I did some good, hard thinking and realized that I needed something bigger–the “big guns” of anti-spoiling parenthood. So I did a little research and found three powerful rules to curb that sense of entitlement and ingratitude. I hope they help you as much as (I hope!) they’ll help me:

Rule #1: Set expectations.

In one of the articles I read, the parents called each errand day a “look” day or a “buy” day. If it was a “look” day, they were just window shopping, and the kids knew in advance not to ask for anything. If it was a “buy” day, they knew to bring their money because they’d be allowed to make purchases. That way, they weren’t constantly setting their hearts on objects and expecting treats. Setting expectations in advance can be a great teaching tool.

Expectations should also be clear at home. In our house, respect is the number one rule. My kids (usually–but not today, apparently!) know to begin their requests with “Please may I have…” or “Thank you for…”

Each member of my family must follow the respect rule, even the parents. I’ve sent myself to my room before. It wasn’t the punishment my kids thought it was–I think I pulled out a book–but it did show my kid that respect is something that everyone should give. Even Mommy.

Rule #2: Serve others–and make it fun.

I know. This one sounds like a sermon, but really, kids are pretty eager to serve other people when they’re young (unless it involves chores and Mom). One year at Christmastime, we passed a tree in the mall called “The Giving Tree,” decorated with ornaments of children who needed gifts that year. My daughter asked what it was, and I told her (a complicated task, considering that I had to explain why Santa brought some kids gifts, and not others). She was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, “Can we give them the money from my piggy bank? I don’t really need it.” We didn’t follow through with it–we made if a family project instead–but for that moment, she stepped out of herself and her wants, in exchange for someone else’s needs and wants. Hurray!

It doesn’t have to involve a huge sacrifice, though. It can be fun. My six year-old niece decided to draw pictures and set up an art stand outside her house. She sold her pictures to neighbors for 3 cents each and gave the money to Primary Children’s Hospital. It was a great way to combine something she loved with helping others (and frankly, her mom didn’t have to find a place for all her art. Definitely a win-win).

Oh, yeah. One more thing. My kids love making thank-you notes. It’s a good way to help them recognize the efforts of others, but still have fun creating something. And what grandparent can’t resist a thank-you note with greasy fingerprints and baby slobber all over it? I mean, come on. Priceless.

Rule #3: Teach them about the less privileged.

I talk about this a little in my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces, but I worked in a Romanian orphanage for a few months in college. The children I served were the ones with physical and mental disabilities, the ones no one would ever consider adoptable. They were ignored all day until meal time, during which they had food shoved down their throats in record time. They were never potty trained, and since the orphanage couldn’t afford diapers, the orphans did their business in wadded-up pieces of clothing stuffed into their pants. I look at my own children and think, “Wow, kid. You’ve got it so good.”

I remember groaning at my dad’s “When I was a boy” stories. (How can the way to school be uphill, both ways? And how did you have snow? You lived in southern California…) But now that I have my own family, I understand why Dad was so insistent. My sisters and I grew up in better circumstances than my parents did, and my kids are living better than I ever did.

With such a limited perspective, it’s nearly impossible for kids to understand why they need to be grateful when they can’t see past their own circumstances. Maybe it’s time to carry on the “When I was a girl” stories–except they’ll start with “When I was a student, I lived in Romania…”

Well, there you go–three powerful rules for raising a grateful child. I promise to follow up on this subject and let you know how it goes. Do you have a good anti-spoiling idea? Please post it! Thanks for following.

 

15 Simple Summer Ideas Your Kids Will Love–At HOME

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My kids are counting down the HOURS until school is over. They’ve already given me their wish lists (demand lists?) of activities and places to visit. That, in addition to Pinterest boards full of fun activities and crafts and science projects and summer reading and weekly schedules, just makes me feel overwhelmed. Is it September yet?

I’m trying to be a good mom here. Really. But I can’t help thinking about my childhood. Summers seemed to last forever then. If we did anything fancy it was a special treat–but mostly, I was just happy to be out of school and free to run wild with my friends. It was the simple life, and I loved it.

It’s sooo not that way anymore. When did this change? When did we start scheduling weekly itineraries with fancy and expensive activities for every single freaking day of the summer? I may be the only one, but I think a simple summer is best: slow-paced, fun, and low-cost. 

Here’s a list of fifteen simple summer activities that your kids will LOVE–and they can be done at home, basically for free, and barely take any effort. You’re welcome. 

1) Movie night–outside, complete with popcorn and sleeping bags.

2) Have a bubble fight.

3) Challenge the neighbors to a water fight.

4) Play tag, hopscotch, or your favorite childhood game.

5) Camp out in the backyard.

6) Watch the sun set and the stars appear.

7) Run a lemonade stand.

8) Grill corn on the cob–BBQ style.

9) Have a picnic on the grass.

10) Make your own popsicles. Yummy.

11) Toss a Frisbee or a baseball.

12) Have a reading marathon under a tree.

13) Running in the sprinklers/slip-n-slide/playing in the hose.

14) Invite friends for a BBQ.

15) Ride bicycles. Like, all day.

Have a fun simple summer idea to share? Please comment below. Thanks for reading, and good luck with the kids this summer!

5 Non-Spanking and Incredibly Brilliant Ways to Discipline Kids

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Spanking is a sensitive subject. I’ve talked to a lot of moms about this, and some of them say, “My parents spanked me, and I’m just fine.” And then there are those horrified moms who reply, “Spanking only teaches violence.” But no matter what side you’re on, it doesn’t hurt to have a few creative tricks up your sleeve to turn a child around quickly. Here are five of the most unique (and incredibly brilliant) methods I’ve been able to find:

1) Use a spray bottle.

I heard about this one last week from a writing friend, and she swears by it–and yes, it works for cats, too. She says that her preschooler and kindergartner don’t like water in their faces, so even the threat of being squirted in the face makes them leap up and obey. 

In the case of teenagers, though, you may want to prepare for the possibility of having that squirt bottle turned on you–so unless you want to start a water fight, consider another method for the older ones.

2) Sweep the concrete.

My husband once told me about a family whose driveway and sidewalks were the cleanest in the city. That was because their disciplining method involved sweeping until the children were ready to obey. This sounds like a constructive way to do things, and a boring one at that (which means it wears a child down quickly). Of course, if it’s snowing outside, you may want to switch the broom for a shovel.

3) The Slave Method.

We actually follow this one, and it’s mentioned in my motherhood book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. When my kids ignore me or continue to argue, I give them a choice: an extra chore, or they can be my slave for five minutes. If they choose the slave option, they have to do whatever I say–from cartwheels to sprints around the yard to sanitizing doorknobs.

It’s a great way to distract from the negative behaviors and encourage the positive. On occasion I’ll make one child be a slave to the other if there’s hitting or naughty words involved, and it usually has them both laughing and apologizing by the end. 

4) Get out and walk.

“Don’t make me turn this car around!” It’s a familiar threat, and one that our kids eventually learn to ignore. There is an easier way to do it, though, and I watched a friend do it in real life once. (She says it only took one time because it worked so well.)

When the fighting in the backseat resembles WWF more than a loving family  (and if your kids are old enough and if you’re within a mile of your house), pull over and tell them to get out and walk home. It should only take one trip to teach that lesson really quick–especially during the winter! 

If your kids are younger, or if you’re not within range of home, simply pull over and sit quietly. They’ll soon realize that the car doesn’t move when there’s fighting going on, and you won’t have to say a word.

5) Chores for chores.

If you’re house cleaning and the kids are underfoot, say, “If you’re going to be in here with me, you need to clean with me.”  The younger kids will usually take me up on the offer. It is harder to get things done this way, but this accomplishes several things: 1) Your child gets to spend time with you, which she probably wanted all along; 2) The child learns how to clean, which is GREAT; 3) You’re still getting things done; and 4) The child isn’t getting into trouble somewhere else. 

If your kids are older and too cool to clean with Mom, they’ll disappear so fast you won’t know what happened. Which is also GREAT.

These are only five methods, but there are probably a thousand ways to do it. I think the best mothers that I know use a variety of methods, and even they have their bad days. But just the fact that you’re reading this tells me that you’re a lot like me–struggling, but still trying.

Don’t give up, and don’t forget to have fun! Even the smartest disciplining techniques don’t laughter and silliness on occasion. Do you have a great discipline method? Please comment. I’d love to hear it.

 

The Ultimate Mom Quiz

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THE MOTHERHOOD QUIZ

Think you’ve seen it all? Let’s see if you’ve said it all. Check the phrases you’ve said to your children. Then add up the scores to see where you stand!

(This quiz is an excerpt from my book, How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. For the 10 Secrets of Motherhood, or for more fun parenting resources, go to my website: http://www.AuthorRebeccaRode.com)

 

             ___ Did you remember to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___ You don’t have to eat all of it; just try a bite. (3 pts)

             ___ You’re not leaving this room until it is clean. (3 pts)

             ___ You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. (4 pts)

             ___ You can’t drive until you’re sixteen. (2 pts)

             ___ I don’t care if all your friends have them. You’re not getting a cell phone    until you’re  _____ (insert age here) (4 pts)

             ___ If you want shoes that cost $120, you’ll have to save up for them yourself. (5 pts)

             ___ If you’re that bored, come empty the dishwasher. (3 pts)

             ___ It’s just a hairbrush, not an instrument of torture. (5 pts)

             ___ I thought you were going to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___ Wow. Um…when’s the last time you took a shower? (4 pts)

             ___ 17,950 texts in one month? Seriously? (5 pts)

             ___ Sit up, please. We’re reading scriptures. (5 pts)

             ___ Sweetheart, we don’t draw on the walls. (3 pts)

             ___ Did you really punch someone at school today? (5 pts)

             ___ No, you may not watch it again. You’re already watched it twice today. (2 pts)

             ___ Honey, we wear clothes when we go outside. (5 pts)

             ___ Didn’t I tell you to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___ Don’t lick the cat. I know she licks you, but just…don’t. (5 pts)

             ___ What’s the magic word? (2 pts)

             ___ I know it’s pink, but don’t you want something that’s a different color? Just this once? (3 pts)

             ___ Get down from the table, please. Tables are not for standing on. (3 pts)

             ___ Time to do your homework. (2 pts)

             ___ Turn that music down. Turn down the music! I SAID, TURN IT DOWN! (5 pts)

             ___ Did you pick that gum up from off the ground? Wait—don’t chew it! (3 pts)

             ___ How many times do I have to ask you to wash your hands? (2 pts)

             ___I think your room exploded. Time for a cleaning party. (4 pts)

             ___ Are you sure you want to read that book again? You already have it memorized. (2 pts)

             ___ Oops, I think the video game remote disappeared. Maybe if you clean your room it will reappear. (5 pts)

             ___ Is that syrup in your hair? (3 pts)

             ___ I just mopped that floor. Here’s a wet rag. Have fun! (5 pts)

             ___ Ew, sweetie. We don’t eat dirt. (3 pts)

             ___ Uh, no. You are not wearing that to school, young lady. (2 pts)

             ___ You still haven’t washed your hands? I give up! (5 pts)

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Scores:

100-118           You’re Supermom! You’ve seen and said it all.

80-99               You’re just about there. Keep up the good work!

60-79               You’re not quite in the thick of things yet. Count your blessings!

0-59                 Just wait. The best is yet to come.


Write a comment below and post your score,  or send me a tweet with your score to @RebeccaRode. I’ll retweet it to all my fans!

If you liked this quiz, click on the Follow button to get updated posts on moms, women’s issues, and writing. Thanks for reading!

Is Motherhood a Sacrifice?

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Do you feel like you sacrificed your dreams to be a mom? I’ve heard so many moms say that. They complain, “I have to hire a babysitter just to go see a movie,” or “I really need a vacation. But with four kids, we barely have enough money for groceries.” It’s a complaint that most of us can relate to–and frankly, I’ve been known to say things like this a time or two (or three hundred). 

When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer. I’ve dreamed about writing that great American novel someday, about going on a book tour and signing my name with a smile onto thick, freshly pressed pages. In fact, when I prepared to graduate from college without a marriage prospect in sight, I figured graduate school in creative writing or journalism would be my thing. I was determined to make my dream come true.

But then I found out about an internship in Romania, working in orphanages. It piqued my interest like nothing else had before. I applied, was accepted, and soon found myself thousands of miles away from laundry dryers, dishwashers, and real American cheeseburgers. “My kids” ended up being the orphans that Romanians wanted to forget about–the severely disabled and disfigured ones. I threw myself into their care, trying to play, tickle, and laugh with them; anything to get a reaction. Over a period of months, these children became mine. I knew every facial expression, every gurgling giggle, every millimeter of improvement they gave, and it didn’t take long before I realized something. If this was what it felt like to be a mom, there was nothing I wanted more. Writing was fulfilling, but it didn’t feel like this. It was that love, that incredible concern and sacrifice for nine abandoned kids–the thousands of miles and dollars and hours–just to see a palsy-stricken six year-old laugh for the first time. It was worth it, times ten. No question. 

When I came home, I brought with me a new dream. That dream came true sooner than expected. Within two years, I had a wonderful husband and a baby girl. She was followed by two adorable and active boys. Several years later, as a busy mom of three, I was feeling overwhelmed and mourning the loss of my freedom as a person–until I remembered my experience in Romania. 

I sat down to write about it, and then I couldn’t stop. I showed the first chapter to a publisher, just to see what she thought, and the rest is history. Now I have a book, called How to Have Peace When You’re Falling to Pieces. It was just released two weeks ago.

I didn’t know as a young intern that I could have two dreams. Being a mom and being an author seemed conflicting at first, but now I know that they only enhanced and enriched each other.  My writing has more depth and experience than ever, and I’m a better mom now that I’ve found a voice. My daughter even sits next to me sometimes, writing her own” book.” I think she has a wonderful future. 

Now, when I’m tempted to complain about babysitting costs, I think about “my” orphans across the ocean, and I have to smile. Motherhood is a sacrifice, it’s true. But in the process of giving things up, I found who I really was. Image

What’s your dream, and did you have to give it up to become a mom? Please leave a comment to share.

The Insecurity of Imperfection–Do you do this too?

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I had somewhat of an “out of body” experience last week. On Friday, my husband came home from work and complimented me on how clean the house was. Sweet, right? But then something really strange happened. I knew it was true, that the house looked great. And my brain also knew that I had worked really hard to make it that way. But for some reason, my “yeah, but” syndrome took over. My quick response was, “Thanks, but I didn’t get the laundry finished. I’ll have to fold it tonight.”

My poor husband’s smile froze on his face before I realized what I’d just done. My “yeah, but” had been a compliment-killing reply, something that grabbed hold of a sweet, well-meaning comment and tossed it into the trash. 

Does this sound familiar? When someone gives you a compliment, do you believe it and thank them for their kindness? Or do you instantly think about the ways that compliment isn’t true? I can think of a dozen examples–like when someone said I looked nice that day, and I instantly thought about the giant zit on my cheek. Or the time when my son’s teacher said I was a good mother because I read with him so often. Was it a hint, a sly way to slip in a recommendation? Or had she truly, honestly meant to give a compliment?

For some reason, this has been on my mind a lot today. Perhaps my “yeah, but” syndrome isn’t humility, but insecurity. Maybe it’s the result of being an oldest child, a people-pleaser, or just the fact that I’m a mom and worry about everything.

I remember comparing myself to the top students of my high school classes, wondering how to get better scores next time–forgetting that I was in the top 5% of the class already. There were times when I started things–track, soccer, music lessons, art, and writing–but quit when the road ahead started to look too rocky and difficult. If my performance wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t worth trying. Has some of that insecurity leaked into my adulthood?

Or is the “yeah, but” syndrome something more, a habit so ingrained in my personality that it will take a lifetime to pick apart?

It’s taken motherhood to teach me that, no matter how well-put-together my children look, or how clean their rooms are, there will always be imperfections. If I’m going to overcome the insecurity of imperfection, maybe now is the time–before it leaks into my children’s lives as well. When my friends go out of their way to pay me a compliment, perhaps my response shouldn’t really be about me at all. Perhaps it should really be about them–about making them feel that their kindness was received graciously.

This Friday, I will probably deep clean the house again. And, if I know my husband, he will try to give another compliment. I pledge to believe that, yes, the house does look fantastic. I pledge to forget about the things I couldn’t quite get to, and I also pledge to thank him for his sweet words. 

And if I’m really brave, maybe I’ll save the laundry for another day.

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