Play Versus Work – What’s the Right Balance?

When it comes to parenting and loving our families in the right way, striking a balance is usually necessary: grace and discipline, play and work – extremes in either category are usually not productive. Who's to know what's right? While every parent, child and family are different, there are a few general guidelines that will help you in deciding what's the right balance for your family.

Play Versus Work – What's the Right Balance?

What Age are You Dealing With?

The first thing you need to realize when you're considering what's appropriate for your circumstance is that what's appropriate now won't be three years from now. As children grow and develop, they naturally are able to take on more responsibility. Sometimes responsibility is thrust on to them a little earlier than feels right, so that's when you need to use your judgement.

With that being said – how old is your child, and what “work” are they dealing with? Homework is one you've likely faced, or will face very soon: teachers send it home and kids fight it. Nowadays, it starts as early as kindergarten; it piles on year after year, and by the time the child is in fifth grade, he's come to dread the after school hours because it simply means more school.

Some things to bear in mind: studies show that homework doesn't increase any chance of post-secondary schooling success when it's completed up through fifth grade. If we're being honest, the most important thing for kids in the elementary years is reading and playing outside. Sure, if homework is implemented, it's important from a character building standpoint to have it done correctly. Consistent assignments for young ones, though? Too much work, not enough play. Your child will walk away from the experience with an extreme distaste for responsibility, and that's not what you want.

Do You Practice What You Preach?

The kids are going to naturally follow your example, so you need to set a healthy one. Do you complain about work? Do they even see you working? Do you work too much? All of these things should be considered. A workaholic may find that their child puts too much pressure on themselves; a lazy man may find that their child complains about work. Look in the mirror and understand that your child's habits are often a reflection on you. If you want to see your child work hard  without complaining and play hard without a care, you need to do those things as well.

Always Err on the Side of Grace

At the end of the day, no one is perfect. There are going to be times where you simply don't know what to do: your third grader's teacher has sent home one hundred math problems for the third night in a row, and you can see it in his eyes that he's about to dig his heels in and shut down to the whole concept of homework. What's worse? You agree with him, not the teacher: it's just too much for a child. Know that when you feel this way, it's okay to go with your gut and would actually be a great lesson learned for both your child and his teacher. Advocating for him and showing him grace is something that he needs to see early on, more than he needs to do that third homework sheet. It'll prove that you're on his side, and it will validate his feelings more than simply making him do the work. It'll also give you the opportunity to show him the correct way to address a problem, as you bring it up to his teacher. If there's ever a question – show grace.

As we stated before, there's no hard and fast rule about finding the perfect balance. It's mostly just about making an assessment based on age and situation, practicing what you preach, and then going with your gut.

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5 Things Moms Should Never Feel Guilty About

Things Moms Should Never Feel Guilty About

Some moms do guilt better than others, but most feel like they have not done all they can at some times.  Before you beat yourself up much, remember, you are not SuperMom, we’re all just humans, and, as humans, we make mistakes, errors in judgment, and do some silly things sometimes.  Be kind to yourself.

Where to Start?

There is so much to feel guilty about for most Moms so picking five is hard, but here goes.

  • Realizing you don’t have it all together.  You see other moms who seem to be skipping through life with not a care in the world.  Her house is immaculate, her baby happy and precocious, dinner on the table at 6 sharp, and she still has time to attend to her husband’s marital needs.  Either you are hallucinating, she is very good at keeping up appearances, or you are delusional. During stressful times, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone else’s life is perfect, but it’s not.  We all are out there trying to do things the best we know how and, many times, flying by the seat of our pants.  If the house is a wreck, if you never get dressed, if dinner comes from the freezer section don’t sweat it.  The fact is, even if it feels like this time lasts forever, it doesn’t.  Some day your house will be restored to order, but enjoy this time as much as you can.  You’ll never get it back.
  • Not volunteering for the PTA or other school functions like field trips.  I know you want to volunteer, but to be honest, sometimes you just don’t feel like heading a committee, corralling 20 students around the zoo, or hanging 5,000 streamers.  You just don’t.  Once in awhile it’s good to give another parent a chance to step up and help.
  • Scheduling birthday parties outside of your home, meaning Chuckie Cheese, McDonalds, roller rink, whatever.  If you have no desire to clean your house top to bottom, plan, decorate, schedule, invite, hire entertainment, and buy a ton of food, don’t feel bad.  You and your counterparts are keeping various establishments in business, helping the economy, and creating jobs for teenagers.  It’s practically philanthropic!
  • Allocating dinner time to your sitter.  Every mom wants to make healthy homemade food for her family, but some just don’t have the time.  Once kids are older there is school and homework and bedtime, etc.  In the interest of eating before midnight, getting homework done and keeping your sanity, speak with your sitter to see if she would be amenable to making dinner in exchange for a few more dollars in her pocket.  If you don’t have a sitter at home, check into meal services in your area.  A popular service is similar to catering, but involves someone coming into your home once a week, preparing family meals to be frozen with directions on how long to cook, etc. so you can pop it in as soon as you get home.  Or try some Crockpot dinners for a ready meal.
  • Being too tired for story time every night.  Sometimes everything seems to get crazy all at one time.  The kids are in a play at school, they are involved in sports, you have to work overtime, and your husband is out of town, phew!  That’s a lot going on.  At the end of these kinds of days, it’s no shame for you to want an early bedtime for the kids and a glass of wine for you.

Things will happen, or not.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad mother because things get mucked up here and there.  Millions of children around the work are being raised by fallible humans, and turning out just fine.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Kids will remember the good times and forget the rest.

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How to Raise a Polite Preschooler

How to Raise a Polite PreschoolerIt seems that politeness and courtesy have gone out of style, and the teaching of such things has gone right with it.  Everywhere you turn you see temper tantrums, and children running with abandon through stores and restaurants, their hapless parents seemingly unaware or unconcerned that their offspring are behaving atrociously and annoying everyone simply trying to eat or shop.

The problem is rampant permissiveness to do as they will without consequences, either because it is too much work to correct or too little courage to enter into a battle of wills with a child, but parents who won’t teach politeness are doing their children a disservice.

Respect

Children must be taught to respect others – their property, their space, their right to eat without being stared at by the child in the next booth.  Realize that respect is a two-way street.  One way to teach respect is to offer it in return.  I cannot tell you the number of times my children have nearly been run over by a shopping cart steered by some adult who thinks it is acceptable to push a child aside or cut them off.  This is a great opportunity to point out that such behavior is rude and should not be done by anyone.

If I am going to instill respect for others, I must be the example.  A couple of rules of the house are as follows: if my bedroom door is closed, you must knock and await an invitation to enter; children are not allowed to take or use something that belongs to another person without permission.  These rules are not only for the children but for the parents also to lead by example.

Please and Thank You

The teaching of polite behavior must begin as early as possible in order to be retained and ingrained.  When someone offers you something, be it a cookie, a compliment, or a seat, say thank you.  I have heard others denigrate this method, saying it is not teaching politeness but rote behavior with no association of a social obligation attached, but I disagree.  If you are making a request, say please.  This shows the concept of equality between the parties involved.  A demand signifies entitlement as does receiving a gift or service without acknowledging it as such.

Social Graces

A parent’s job is to instill good values and societal graces.  Your child needs guidance, not a best friend.  Failing to teach good manners is setting up a child for failure in relationships with other adults and children.  There seems to be at least one child in every group that no one wants to play with because of the child’s attitude and one that defies teachers and administration personnel as well, which can cause isolation – from others and from the class as disciplinary measures escalate, eventually leading to suspension and/or expulsion.

What sort of adults will these children be?  Becoming socially acceptable can very well come later in life when the results of bad behavior lead to a desire to be accepted, but it is a long hard road that no parent wants to subject their child to.  A parent who teaches good manners and polite behavior are setting their children up to succeed in life and polite society.

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Am I a Bad Mom Because My Kid Can’t Tie Her Shoes?

Am I a bad mom because my kid can’t tie her shoes

There are many mom-ish things that moms admittedly don’t want to do or don’t admit and make excuses for.  Mine was potty training so my kid was three years old still in diapers, and, when I asked her, when are you going to use the potty, she replied, “when you get me underwear.”  Precocious, right?  And that actually worked.  She used the potty and never had an accident.  Go figure!

Why Resist?

Learning to tie shoelaces is an exercise in patience, repetition, and more patience.  But many moms, even though they know how to tie shoelaces, may not remember the way they learned it and have no idea who to teach it.  Fortunately in the age of the internet there are numerous tutorials, both video and blog on this very subject.

Why is it though, that kids aged eight and beyond do not know how to tie shoelaces?  Experts suggest that due to the popularity of Velcro and slip-on shoes, moms and kids alike have never seen the need, and it only becomes a glaring omission in early childhood training when we confront a pair of kid shoes with laces, coupled with a lack of motivation to put yourself through this endeavor without an immediate need.  In many cases, the deciding factor was a pair of shoes, be it a gift or a choice, with the dreaded laces.

How to Proceed

Many moms choose to do the tying themselves, thus avoiding one more day without a struggle with laces – buying time to get her courage up!  Naturally mom knows that eventually the day will come with a need for lacing knowledge.  You can employ the old double bow to avoid accidental untying, but what if she has to take her shoes off without you around, like in school or at a friend’s?

This will most likely be a wake-up call when both you and she are embarrassed by her lack of knowledge resulting in a third party intervention.  Once you have reached the inevitable decision, you have to choose a method for training.  You can demonstrate on her shoe, or yours, give her a random shoe to practice on, or purchase a special “book” with shoelaces meant to teach tying skills.  Just add it to the nightly routine.

Too Much Mollycoddling?

We’re all shocked when we hear of the 10 or 12-year old whose mother still bathes him or does his homework and projects.  Most likely this fictional mom is simply showing her love and devotion to her son by taking extra good care of him, but not realizing he needs to learn to walk before he can fly.  If not, he has a good chance of living in her basement all his life.  None of us wants that.

So, what’s a mom to do?  First of all remind yourself you are an excellent mom, the shoe issue notwithstanding.  I mean it’s not like you still feed him or anything, or still use diapers.  You covered the big stuff so don’t sweat the small stuff.  And, if you just can’t conquer the task, delegate it to your husband, mom, or older child, and just keep moving in concentric circles till you find the one – the one who can help to fill this tiny gap in skills.

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Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

Vaccines provide protection against a host of childhood illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a comprehensive vaccine schedule for children from birth through adulthood, with appropriately timed and spaced immunizations to provide maximum health benefits. Here’s a brief primer on vaccines for babies and older kids.

Commit to Vaccines

There’s quite a bit of discussion about vaccines, despite the fact that they are safe and effective. It is critically important that you commit to vaccines and get them for your children on the approved timeline. The CDC has a standard timeline as well as a delayed one. Some parents with concerns about immunizations for very young children opt for the delayed schedule, which spreads required vaccines out over a longer period of time. However you choose, commit to completing each series of vaccines. Starting then stopping an immunization program poses health rises from decreased immunity, among other things.

Discuss with Your Pediatrician

Discuss immunizations with your pediatrician. They can discuss recommendations based on your child’s individual medical records and answer any questions you may have. It’s important to make decisions as soon as possible – even before the birth of your child – as some immunizations are given at the hospital immediately after birth.

Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

The Vaccine Schedule

There are interactive immunization schedules available at a variety of sites online. The CDC site includes the standard schedule for babies through 6 years, a full schedule to age 18, and a catch up schedule if you’ve fallen behind or decide later to have your child immunized. Become familiar with the schedule so that you know when you visit your pediatrician when shots are to be given.

Well Child Visits

Take advantage of well child visits – a series of doctor visits during the first six years of life to ensure proper growth and development of your child. Most insurance plans cover well child visits with no deductable or co-pay.

When Vaccines are Administered

Some of the stress around childhood vaccines centers on access to medical information. Take a proactive stance regarding vaccines: know which well child visits include shots, research or discuss with your physician the possible side effects for each and monitor your child closely for 24 hours after each immunization. For some vaccines, such as Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), the reaction is delayed by 7-10 days. While it’s not an official recommendation, many parents opt to have immunizations early in the day so they can monitor the child for possible side effects for several hours before bedtime.

Make the decision to get all of the recommended vaccines for your baby or older children. You’ll be protecting their health as well as the health of others who and weakened immune systems and cannot get vaccines. This collective protection is called “herd immunity” and it’s only effective if the majority of individuals receive their vaccinations on schedule. If you have questions or concerns about vaccines, discuss them with your pediatrician or health care provider.

 

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Mom Review: Bleach Baths for Eczema…Do they Work?

eczemaMy daughter has severe eczema.  So severe that she referred to herself as "polka-dotted" when someone commented on her tan. "Boy are you tan..."..."no, I'm just polka-dotted".  Thankfully, she's only six and the "polka-dots" caused by dry skin are still somewhat funny to her...

Lately her condition has worsened and it is no longer funny to either of us.  While I had hoped that the humidity of summer would improve the problem it has aggravated it.  (I am suspect that the 3X daily dose of sunscreen or seasonal allergies is making it worse).

I've tried just about everything to treat her eczema - from slathering on Hydrocortisone creams to trying the "as seen on TV" skin care remedies and while her condition improves somewhat (off and on) nothing has eliminated it.   During my monthly search for the "next best thing" I came across numerous websites that suggested adding a small amount of bleach to a child's bath water will help treat eczema.  Yes - bleach. Like many of you reading this, my initial reaction was, "are you kidding me?". Why would I put bleach in my child's bath water?   So I continued to search and realized that the bleach treatment was actually featured in numerous reputable magazines and websites including Time, WebMD, and ABC News.com.

From Time Magazine....

When treating children for chronic eczema, pediatricians may want to look in the laundry room, according to a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics. The study reports that adding a small amount of household bleach to a child's bathwater can dramatically reduce the itching, rashes and discomfort caused by eczema.

The treatment sounds harsh, but the findings confirm what many pediatric dermatologists have seen anecdotally for years. The theory is that the antimicrobial properties of bleach help relieve symptoms of eczema not by acting directly on that skin condition, but by improving children's skin infections of staph bacteria — a common co-occurrence that exacerbates the irritating symptoms of eczema.

Last year  my husband (who also suffers from eczema) nearly wound up in the hospital after contracting a severe MRSA (anti-biotic resistant) strain of staph infection, therefore, I've been especially concerned about my daughter's condition.   While the "bleach bath" treatment sounds harsh, there is nothing worse than watching a loved one suffer from a staph infection and not knowing what antibiotics (or even *if* antibiotics) will help.

So I'm giving it a try and will post the results (after a few weeks) here.  She had her first bath tonight and so far, so good!  🙂  I used 1/4 cup of bleach in our full tub.   Her hair is the same color...her skin is the same color...and she didn't seem bothered by the smell.  (She actually liked it..."it smells like a pool in here".  Oh...and the tub is bright white and looks AWESOME.  🙂

I'm planning to give her a 10 minute bleach bath nightly followed by a slathering of Aveeno oatmeal lotion (recommended by our neighborhood pharmacist).  Bookmark this post and I will share my review in a few weeks.

(This is just my personal opinion and review - please consult your pediatrician or dermatologist before trying this treatment).