My Parenting Bucket List

My Parenting Bucket List

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If you knew you only had a year left to live, or perhaps just months, what would you need and want to do with and for your children? This last year has been painfully inspiring to me as a mom – I’ve watched friends bury spouses way too early, leaving young children behind, and I’ve been blessed to hold the hands of a dear friend who is terminally ill as she somehow is able to eloquently separate sickness from parenting and give her children memories to sustain them.

All of these moments have stirred inside me a growing need to create my own parenting bucket list. Those things I’ve put off, dreamed about, or hoped to do are now making their way to the forefront – my tally of all the things I want to do as a mom before the kids have made their own life lists. The truth is that none of us know how many more days we have the privilege to parent our children. My parenting bucket list represents the time I hope I have to nurture and treasure these kids.

What’s On My Parenting Bucket List?

My list seems to grow every day, but here is a sampling of what I hope to accomplish as a parent and the experiences I hope to share with my children. From the simple to the spiritual, my bucket list is also my love list of how much I want to keep pouring into their lives.

  • Camp – and really rough it. We’ve done the campground adventures, but I want my kids to experience what I remember from childhood – hiking to a spot flat enough to set up camp, searching for firewood, and digging a hole for bathroom privies. No reservations, electricity, or running water. Not only would this be an awesome adventure, but it would be a real life lesson in self-reliability.
  • Go to a rock concert together. My kids are now getting to that age where they want to attend a concert that doesn’t involve puppets or purple dinosaurs. Fortunately my kids are also of personalities where they are OK sharing those experiences with their dilapidated parents. There is hope yet for this bucket list item, but I think my husband has dibs on AC/DC tickets.
  • Seeing them truly embrace their faith. This is just one of those things that comes with age for so many people, and I am watching my older children bloom as they find their faith paths. I want to provide them with examples of my own faith so it will help them find their own.
  • Visit the Grand Canyon. I think nothing helps make us feel our aptly appointed small corners of the world more than seeing the vastness of something great like the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been yet and look forward to the day when I can share that experience with my kids.
  • Have all of the age appropriate conversations I should. And find a way to record the others – just in case. I think that one of the most aching things I have ever heard is my friend regretting that she won’t be there to give advice for first dates or first weeks of college. None of us are guaranteed those moments, but on my bucket list I am now writing letters to my kids for precisely those moments. If I’m here to share the joy, I don’t think I’ll regret the time it took to write those letters (which I’ll still present anyway).
  • Giving them the reasons why. Kids always ask Why? I may not have all the answers, but I beginning to record some of them that I do. Why did I turn down my “dream job” offer when I was 22? Why did your sister get to pick her own room in the new house? Some of the answers might be surprising, and some of them too simple – but they will hopefully help my kids learn more about our family if I can fill in some of these blanks.

How Do I Create a Parenting Bucket List?

There are no rules – except to let your heart and your imagination take over and lead the way. I try to put myself in the position of my dear friend who is preparing to leave her children way too early, but the pain is almost more than I can even imagine. It is difficult to fathom how a mother feels in those moments. But I am determined not to let my parenting bucket list be filled with sadness – I’m looking ahead and dreaming of the future – and asking myself lots of questions.

  • What stories do I need to record for my kids for the future?
  • Who would fill my shoes if I were absent – and would they fulfill any of my bucket list items?
  • What are my “Top 10” bucket list items?
  • How (if it does at all) does money change the priority ranking of my bucket list items?
  • How are my parenting bucket list items different from my personal bucket list items? How are they the same?

As gut-wrenching, faith shaking, and devastating as it is to watch parents know they are dying and leaving their young children behind, it can also be a blessing for those of us who witness it. We can use it as our kick in the pants to be just a little more present in the lives of our kids and come out with no (or at least fewer) regrets. It can be the best gift we give our kids. To borrow from a country western song

And I loved deeper,

And I spoke sweeter,

And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin’

…Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin’.

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Easy 4th of July Family Fun

Easy 4th of July Family Fun

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The 4th of July is always a little bitter sweet for me – it seems like it marks the second half of summer and yet it feels like the fun is just beginning. In order to harness all of the excitement and anticipation that the 4th can bring, I love to plan games, adventures, and of course a great menu with the kids. If you and your family are looking for some fun and easy ways to make the most of your 4th of July celebration, try these family-friendly tips.

Tips for Fun on the 4th with Kids and Families

Create a Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

Even if you are all planning your own cook-outs, gather the neighbors for one colossal scavenger hunt for the kids. Each family can be responsible for creating 2 or 3 clues. Create teams of kids of mixed ages and send the kids throughout the neighborhood looking for clues that will lead them to the eventual treasure. The prize at the end could be a root beer float stand or sparklers for the gang.

Make Gifts for the U.S.A.

It is, after all, the birthday of the nation. Help teach your kids the historical significance of the date as well as create some meaningful times together. Some of these activities can be done the week of the 4th, making your holiday last even longer.

  • Write letters to American soldiers thanking them for their service. Check to see if a local organization sends care packages and help fill some of those needs.
  • Volunteer for a community service, such as ditch cleaning.
  • Make a birthday cake or cupcakes for the U.S.A. with your kids and take them to a local nursing home or veterans’ hospital.

Play Yard Games with a Twist

As long as the weather cooperates you’ll find most families gathered outside at some point on the 4th of July, playing games and firing up the grill. Add unique twists onto traditional games for holiday fun.

  • Play squirt tag instead of regular tag. Give all of the kids a squirt bottle filled with water. You don’t have to get close enough to tag someone, just close enough to squirt them. This is a great version for younger kids (or those who just want to get wet).
  • Add in some Olympic flair. Just after the 4th we’ll start cheering for our favorite Olympians, but you can get a jump start on the Olympic fun by doing modified versions of the games. Have potato sack dashes, discus throws with weighted red or blue Frisbees, or gymnastics on the jungle gym (try an award for best dismount from the swings).
  • Have a red, white, and blue water balloon toss. Play traditional toss games where you take a step backwards for every successful throw until only one team (and intact water balloon) remains. If you have older kids you could have another version and assign points – 5 points if you can hit a target with a red balloon, 10 points for hitting the bulls-eye with a blue balloon.

Dress-Up for the 4th of July

Have your kids, their cousins, and their friends make red, white, and blue tie-dye shirts for the day. You can purchase inexpensive kits and plain t-shirts at craft stores and then set up a work station outside. One year my kids made shirts with their cousins and they were the hit of the week – they even wore their shirts to the zoo together later during their stay and it was the perfect way to help keep an eye on everyone – and they made for amazing pictures together!

Get the Kids in the Kitchen

Not only can they help you save time so you can enjoy the festivities as well, but when your kids help in the kitchen they learn great practical skills. And chances are your kids will have fun with these recipe ideas.

  • Come up with patriotic names for everything you’re serving and have them on a menu board – Firecracker Fruit Salad, Birthday BBQ, Patriotic Potato Salad, etc.
  • Make star shaped sugar cookies and decorate with red and blue sprinkles. You can even take a refrigerated can of prepared dough and just let the kids cut the cookies from that.
  • Take beverages like blue Gatorade and red cranberry juice and freeze them into ice cubes for colorful drink additions.
  • Serve watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, and even dark raspberries on skewers. You can separate the fruits with mini marshmallows or have a white cream cheese dip for the fruit kabobs.

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Do Your Kids Have Talent?

Do Your Kids Have Talent?

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Before you start considering things that we typically think of as talents – dancing, playing sports and learning musical instruments, or singing – think a little bit deeper about your children. I’m talking about a different definition of talent – Thinking Talents – as outlined by researchers and child development expert Dawna Markova.

Finding the Thinking Talents Within Your Child

In her book The SMART Parenting Revolution, Markova and various research groups have determined that people have different Thinking Talents, and that there are 36 different, specific talents that can be seen. These talents all have several things in common:

  • People appear to be very naturally inclined towards their talents, without specific training in them. Your kids have always just been really good at doing them.
  • People feel enthusiastic about pursuing these thinking talents. Your kids seem more engaged and energetic when they get to use their thinking talents.
  • People enjoy furthering these talents. Your kids naturally seek out more ways to develop their thinking talents and use them more fully.
  • People see the world and how they relate to it through the characteristics of their thinking talents. Your child has a unique perspective on life based on these thinking talents.

As adults we average 5 thinking talents that we usually use most often, but our younger kids are more flexible in their development and tend to use more talents. It is during puberty that our kids start to hone their thinking talents and place more focus on specific ones. While most of this is done subconsciously, we as parents can consciously help our kids discover their thinking talents, helping them become stronger, more confident, and happier, and helping us parent more effectively and lovingly.

What Are the 36 Thinking Talents?

Markova and her colleagues describe 36 separate thinking talents, the combinations of which your children have is what helps form their unique and individual beings.

  1. Collaboration – your child enjoys working in a group
  2. Concentration – your child is at her best when she can focus on one thing for a long period of time
  3. Enrolling – your child enjoys meeting new people and engaging with them
  4. Equality – you child wants to make sure everyone is treated fairly
  5. Feeling for Others – your child thinks about others almost more than she does herself
  6. Fixing It – your child likes to make things and situations better
  7. Flexibility – your child “goes with the flow”
  8. Gathering – your child likes to collect things, ideas, or trinkets
  9. Get to Action – your child has less patience and wants to see things done ASAP
  10. Goal Setting – your child has a consistent drive to get things done
  11. Humor – your child likes to find the “funny” in situations
  12. Including – your child likes to make sure everyone is included
  13. Innovation – your child loves to create and come up with new ways to do things
  14. Intimacy – your child prefers to have close, genuine friends with just a few others
  15. Connection – your child likes to take ideas from various people and combine them into something bigger
  16. Love of Learning – your child loves learning new things
  17. Loving Ideas – your child is energized by new concepts
  18. Making Order – your child likes to organize a mess
  19. Mentoring – your child likes to help others find success
  20. Optimism – your child is enthusiastic and positive
  21. Peacemaking – your child seeks out harmony and avoids confrontation
  22. Personalizing – your child is in tune with what makes other people tick
  23. Precision – your child needs to do things in particular order
  24. Reliability – your child is responsible and strives to be dependable
  25. Seeking Excellence – your child likes to make the most out of anything
  26. Self-confidence – your child is generally confident about what he does
  27. Standing Out – your child appreciates being recognized for her accomplishments
  28. Storytelling – your child likes to use stories to bring ideas and thoughts to life
  29. Strategy – your child enjoys thinking about the possibilities (if this, then that…)
  30. Taking Charge – your child prefers to be in a leadership position
  31. Thinking Ahead – your child gets excited when thinking about the future and plans ahead
  32. Thinking Alone – your child needs time alone to think over ideas
  33. Thinking Back – your child likes looking back at what has happened in the past
  34. Thinking Logically – your child needs to know specific information, not generalizations
  35. Values – your child has a strong core set of values and isn’t afraid to show them
  36. Wanting to Win – your child thrives on competition

Helping Your Children Discover Their Talents

When I first tried to recognize my children’s thinking talents, I admit that I was a bit overwhelmed – I felt like I needed flashcards with the 36 talents that seemed to me at times to overlap. But instead I had to find a new way to look at various situations with my kids. Instead of feeling a bit anxious because the kids started to bicker again, I would try to see which talents each child was bringing to the table. I soon realized that the bickering was often because their talents were not similar – and sometimes in competition with each other. We had to work together to find ways to allow everyone to bring their unique set of talents into the situation. It is as much about recognizing the talents within yourself as it is in respecting the unique talents of others.

  • Hang a list of the talents on the fridge (consider it your flashcards).
  • Give each of your kids a stack of notecards. Have them write down the thinking talents they feel they use the most often – maybe 10 or so.
  • Do the same for your kids – writing down which talents you see in your children.
  • Meet with your kids one-on-one and go over their talent cards, sharing why you both chose the ones you did.
  • Have a fun family meeting where everyone else shares a few of their own talents and one or two they see in their siblings or parents.
  • Find ways to make sure that everyone’s thinking talents have a place in the family. If you have one child who thrives on collaboration, but another child who thrives on thinking alone, find ways to honor both of those talents when it comes to making family decisions.

Make sure your kids understand that these talents will ebb and flow as they grow, and they aren’t hard and fast rules. Definitely do not let them become self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead take a new look at your kids and relearn your definition of talent. When we help our children recognize their own talents and those of their family members, we are giving them tools for personal and social development that will stick with them forever.

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Where Is the Respect for Elders?

Where Is the Respect for Elders?

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Video of Bus Monitor Karen Klein Being Bullied Is Wake-Up Call for Parents

Respect for elders – it might sound like an old fashioned expectation, but the recent video of the 64-year-old but monitor who was bullied and harassed by 7th and 8th grade students is a signal that we need to go back to those lessons with our kids. It was stomach-turning to hear Karen Klein belittled, teased, bullied, and demeaned by these young “men”, and it made me, along with many of you, wonder how we could have gotten to such a place with our children where this would ever happen.

Why are kids losing respect for elders?

There do seem to be prevailing opinions of Americans that children and teens are becoming less respectful of their elders, but the reasons are multi-faceted as to why this might be happening in our culture.

  • The social lines between children and adults has been blurring in the past few decades. Children used to be isolated in their own social circles, but shifts in education, neighborhoods, and family and community dynamics means that children are participating in some of the same circles as older Americans, sometimes even in peer-to-peer relationships.
  • Family structures are changing. It used to be typical in American homes that a stay-at-home parent (usually the mom) would be active in caregiving for older parents. I remember as a child having my grandmother live with us for a time when she could no longer live alone. This type of care is not possible in dual-income homes like it used to be.
  • People are living longer and working longer – senior citizens are in our stores and businesses, sometimes even competing for the same jobs as the youngest working generation in America. This again puts them in that peer-to-peer relationship.
  • It is not a focus of teaching. Sadly, I do feel this is one of the strongest reasons why there is a loss of respect for elders. It is why a group of tweens and teens would find it funny to taunt and tease a bus aid to tears, and then post the video for all the world to see her pain. Parents have to teach respect for elders – and it takes an active approach, especially when most households don’t have that older generation living with them or even living near them.

How can we teach our children to respect elders?

Parents are the number one influencers in lessons like these, and we need to start teaching elder respect from the earliest of ages with our children. Parents need to take a more active approach to teaching their children elder respect – and in the busy lives of families it just doesn’t take on a priority. Here are a few ways you can integrate life-giving lessons for your kids.

  • From the time they are talking, children want to know Why?. Children will be more likely to respect elders when they understand why you value them so much. Talk about the generations before you – their accomplishments, their struggles, and their contributions (from raising you to inventing the microwave oven).
  • Take your young kids to story time at a nursing home or assisted care facility – or ask the nursing home coordinator if you can begin one. Sometimes the residents read to the kids, sometimes the kids read to the residents. My kids go and sing and play piano at nursing homes, take holiday cards and treats, and my daughter visits with her therapy dog.
  • Volunteer with your kids in community events that are elder-focused. In our city we have Rake the Town, where volunteers travel the city in the fall, raking the leaves of the yards of elderly people who need a little help on fall home maintenance.
  • Take your kids to activities directed by an older population. Senior groups often put on plays, productions, and lead classes in communities – show your kids that this generation has so much to share.
  • Talk with your kids about your family history – or if possible – have them talk with older family members to get a true sense of family history. My ten-year-old recently completed a family genealogy project where he learned from his great-grandmother and grandmother about the businesses his family owned, the homes they built, and the lives they lived. It connected my son to his living senior relatives, as well as with his own personal past.
  • Involve your kids in things you do with the elderly. I regularly take meals to my 92-year-old grandmother who still lives in her own home. One of the best things I can do is to take my kids along – they get to visit with her but they also get to see how I respect my elders.
  • Do it. Open the doors for the elderly. Ask them if they need help when you see them trying to reach something on a shelf. Engage in conversations with them when you are out and about. And do all of this with your children around you.
  • Tell your children this is what you expect from them. If you see your child not do these things, call them on it – tell them to get the door, offer help, or smile and say hello. Hold them accountable.

Someday it might be you or me who feels invisible, you who feels forgotten, or you who is taunted. This younger generation is the one we hope will care for us, love us, honor us, and need us. What we do today will not only determine how our children treat their elders now, but how they treat all generations to come.

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What Do You Know About Your Own Kids?

Why Discovering Their True Selves Helps Them Become Their Best Selves

Yesterday I shared a little bit about how our family is using ideas in The Smart Parenting Revolution, by Dawna Markova, Ph.D. when it comes to helping our kids (and ourselves) recognize individual strengths and work toward interdependence. These ideas can’t come to action, though, without understanding 3 key elements:

  • Recognizing mind patterns
  • Determining attractions and interests
  • Honoring thinking talents

The Value of Learning Styles for Recognizing Mind Patterns

Markova looks at learning styles as integral to mind patterns – the unique and functional way different brains selectively work best. Children are hardwired to learn, but they are not all hardwired to learn the same way, according to Markova. When we teach them to recognize their own strengths in learning, they can more successfully pursue their own strengths in other areas of interest. I’ve written before about the importance of helping your kids find their learning styles – it is so vital to helping them become the best versions of themselves. Markova writes that:

“Because we are all wired differently, understanding how we and our children are wired is one of the most important keys to being able to learn how we learn.”

She also includes in her book a list of prominent individuals who made significant contributions to the world – but who in today’s society would be labeled with a disorder or medicated for their uniqueness. President Woodrow Wilson didn’t read until age 11 and Thomas Edison’s teacher beat him for not paying attention and being too fidgety in class. Just these two examples demonstrate how our tendency to label and compare our children to everyone else doesn’t lead to greatness – but allowing kids to be great at what they love does.

“Pay Attention!”

Have you ever said this to your child? Has her teacher? We all recognize that in order to learn, grasp concepts, and move forward we need to pay attention. If we want our kids to help with some household chores we might want them to pay attention to our instructions. If a teacher is instructing the class on homework, she wants her students to pay attention. But what does this really mean?

Markova gives a great discussion of attention in her book, but the highlights are descriptions of what she and researchers have determined are three basic types of attention.

  • Focusing – when we concentrate. Beta waves are produced and we pay attention in organized and detailed ways, and this is when we have the most mental stamina.
  • Sorting – when we are wondering or confused. There are more alpha waves produced in the brain, and our thinking becomes more relaxed and allows us to look at things from two perspectives.
  • Imagining – when we are in our own mental world. The brain produces more theta waves, and it is also when we are more sensitive, seeking private thinking time, and most easily distracted. While it might appear that we are spaced out – our brain is thinking about many things at once.

Recognizing Mind Patterns

Markova asks us to think of the three basic learning styles that exist: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. So we have these 3 basic learning styles, and through the magic of math, we find that there are 6 possible “mind patterns” – 6 combinations of learning styles. If I lost you at the mention of math – hang on – and think of it this way:

  • We all use the three learning styles, just to varying degrees.
  • The difference is in which style we tend to turn to first in a given situation, and then second, and third.
  • The order in which you use different learning styles also affects your state of attention (remember those three from above?).

Example: I have three sons. They all walk through the door after playing outside and into the kitchen where I am making dinner – they are sharing the same experience. However, one son might first look to see what I am doing, whether stirring the pot or chopping the vegetablesthis is his kinesthetic style taking charge. Another son might be listening to the sounds of the kitchen and what I’m doing – using his auditory learning style to assess the situation. My third son looks to see what food I am making for dinner – using his visual learning.

Then in rapid – faster than you can tell succession – they use their other learning styles to complete the picture and create the mind pattern that works best for them. They all had the same experience of walking through the door, but they will all come to slightly different conclusions based on the pattern of their learning, and they will all remember the scene differently. There are a total of 6 different patterns that could exist. When we know which pattern our kids use most often, we can help communicate and interact with them and build the best environment for them.

Determining Attractions and Interests

This next key to opening the world of possibilities with your kids is all about motivation. I’ve shared countless research on this topic in the past, and Markova’s mirrors most of it. Intrinsic motivation, that which comes from within your child, is the most important factor for success. Pay attention to your child’s interests. You should be able to talk about your child endlessly – interests, passions, fears, cravings, and more.

In my family when I paused to consider more carefully my son’s attractions and interests I was able to see a very reluctant reader morph into a child who moved through the library stacks quickly and then devoured his selections. I stopped thinking that he would go through the motions like his siblings who came before and read “first readers”, and then move onto beginning chapter books. He had no interest in these – he had no intrinsic motivation for reading – until he met a Garfield comic book. I changed my idea of how kids learn to read, and he is now a reader.

Honoring Thinking Talents

Does your child look at the world in a different way, get teased for a unique perspective, or feel embarrassed because she does things contrary to her peers? She might be using her thinking talents – the world around her just hasn’t figured out it needs to honor those. These are the traits that researchers say are innate, give us pleasure and internal reward, and are the most comfortable way for us to think about the world. Researchers have even developed a list of 36 Thinking Talents they have discovered exist in children and adults. (Next week I’ll be sharing this list and ways to use them with your kids.)

It is vital to raising happy, successful, and fulfilled children that we meet them where they are instead of try to change them to meet our picture of them. When we honor the thinking talents of our kids, even if those talents are not ones we personally find useful in our own lives, we help them to develop their innate strengths.

Take today to ask your kids questions that will lead to discovery about them. Not only will you learn even more about your gems, but they will also begin thinking about their own ideas and actions even more.

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Changing the Way You Pay Attention to Your Child

Why Focusing on the Good Brings Out the Good

If you’re a parent, grandparent, or even just live in a community with children (yes – pretty much everyone), take the time to read The Smart Parenting Revolution, by Dawna Markova, Ph.D. Rarely do I fell this connected to a book, but this one strikes a chord through sound research and practical advice for parents. Markova aims her book at parents and caregivers who want a “powerful new approach to unleashing your child’s potential.” While not every single page resonates for me as a mother, there is so much real world advice throughout that I have to share some of it with you and how it works in our family.

Focus on the Positive Traits of Your Children

“Passionate parents can help their children live up to their potential rather than down to their deficits.”

Markova introduces her book to us as an effort to get parents to stop trying to change all of the little undesirable traits that parents worry their children demonstrate (fidgety, loud, timid, etc.) and focus on their potential strengths. In my mind I’m hearing the tidbits of an old song…accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative

She goes on to cite research done by the Gallup Organization about which every parent should hear: Every unique, one-of-a-kind child has signature strengths. The Gallup research shows that “not everyone can do everything, and trying to make everyone learn to do everything only produces mediocrity.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t aim for mediocrity with my children or myself. In my family this doesn’t mean we just dismiss things we think we or our children aren’t as capable of doing, it means that we work on developing skills in those areas, but we allow for extra energy to go into things in which we feel we and them are inherently capable. We get to accentuate the positive.

If you think that your kids should have extra lessons and classes and attention placed on their deficits in order to make them good enough, strong enough, or capable enough – enough already. We need to give them room to excel in the areas where they are naturally inclined and form interpersonal relationships with others who can complement self-identified weaknesses.

The Value of Interdependence and Cooperative Learning

Too many people think that we have to teach our children to be completely independent. However, we are missing the value of interdependence. Here is an example of how this works in my family. My daughter is attuned to animals – aspiring to become a veterinarian. People refer to her for questions on dog training and things related to animal behavior and health – these are her innate strengths about which she feels passionate. Now take sports – she is not so inclined to get excited over a football game. Yet when friends get together for a backyard game of flag football, she’ll defer to her brother (the self-proclaimed football fanatic) for the best plays to run. This simple example shows how kids and teens can learn to seek out skills from others that can help them, while at the same time providing their own niche of knowledge. And they feel good about both – we are teaching cooperative learning and interdependence – which frees them up to follow their own unique dreams and ideas.

Helping Your Child Reach His Full Potential

There is potential surrounding us in our children – we just need to know how to help them reach out and grab it. Markova promotes a strategy that incorporates open ended questions and empathy to have conversations and engagements with our kids that will help all of us discover those innate passions and assets – with the acronym of SMART.

  • Successes and Skills: your child’s accomplishments
  • Mind Patterns: what helps your child concentrate, make decisions, and imagine new possibilities
  • Attractions and Interests: the ongoing things that interest your child
  • Resources: the people, places, and things outside your child that are available as support to him or her, as well as the inner resources developed from facing challenges and overcoming obstacles
  • Thinking Talents: innate ways of thinking that your child excels at and is energized by

As Markova encourages parents to recognize the positive traits in their children and give those attention, she also says that this is not the same thing as giving them compliments or praise. Consider two examples:

  1. A son comes off the baseball field and his dad says, “You’re a great fielder!”
  2. A son comes off the baseball field and his dad says, “How did you enjoy playing center field? What is most challenging about it? It looked to me like you were ready at each play – how do you think you did?”

The difference between these two is the first is a compliment that might be nice to hear, but it doesn’t do anything to further the son’s experience. The second is the dad paying attention to the son, engaging him in conversation that might lead to discovery, and it is all done in a positive way. Teach your child to recognize success in himself, and he will be more capable of reaching for it.

There is so much more waiting inside Markova’s book – join me tomorrow for a discussion about how my family implements her ideas on recognizing mind patterns, attractions and interests, and thinking talents.

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Is Your Child Really Shy?

Why She Might Be an Introvert or HSP

I know, I know. How many psychologically construed ways can we describe our children and what we all probably perceive to be as “shy” behavior? The difference, I’m learning, is almost much more about how we react to our children when we understand what makes them tick. If you think your child is shy, consider some of these other things that might be underlying causes for her shy behaviors.

Shy, Introvert, or Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

I recently read an interesting article in TIME magazine, The Upside of Being an Introvert (And Why Extroverts are Overrated), by Bryan Walsh. He openly admits that he considers himself an introvert, even describing stolen moments in a bathroom where he takes a reprieve from a social dinner hour among colleagues. Walsh strives in his article to demonstrate the difference between shyness and being introverted.

While there are similarities and overlapping characteristics of the two, shyness (especially extreme) is usually the result of anxiety, fear and apprehension of social situations, and diligently and regularly doing what one can to avoid social situations. On the other hand, introverted people usually don’t make strong efforts to avoid social situations, they just don’t prefer to actively seek out those situations. They want time to absorb ideas and prefer “alone time” much more often that extroverts. Extroverts tend to thrive on social interactions – loving to interact with people – and are much happier when they can share their time and experiences with others.

Infants Show Signs of Introverted and Sensitive Behaviors

So – how do you know if your child is shy or an introvert? Studies show that even infants display traits of introverted personalities. They are “high-reactive”, startling more to stimuli, and biologically having lower thresholds for stimulation. Walsh makes several good observations about how so many parents wouldn’t choose caution, inhibition, and even fearfulness to be characteristics for their kids. However, sometimes these introverted traits are the biological way for these kids to cope with their aversions to larger amounts of external stimuli.They are good, effective coping mechanisms. Parents are strongly encouraged by child psychologists not to criticize their children for these tendencies or they risk overwhelming their natural coping capacities.

Reaction to Shyness Article in TIME

In reaction to the article by Walsh, Elaine Aron, Ph.D., writes that while Walsh did advocate for a new look at introverted behaviors as positive, he missed out on another aspect of the equation – Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). While I would usually have my overfill of acronyms at this point and be walking away from this conversation, several things that Aron said ring true and familiar for me as a parent.

“We are not always shy or introverted, but quiet.”

Aron claims that what is missing from this equation is the discussion of HSPs who are actually social extraverts. They enjoy meeting new people and sharing conversations, but they are like introverts in that they are sensitive to pain, caffeine, loud noises, and environmental and emotional stimuli. This is one of my kids – who can either be the life of the party and the jokester, or the one in the corner trying to disassociate from too much stimululation in the environment. Fortunately, he has already learned at his young age to give himself what he needs – quiet time by himself to think, relax, invent, and create. He is not shy – probably somewhere between introverted and HSP, but I like to think of him as my son, with no acronyms attached – who has figured out what he needs to be the best version of himself. Now it’s up to me to make sure that I react to his individual needs with understanding and encouragement. And Aron says that scientists are working on better understanding of these characteristics.

“As we learn more, we will become more accurate. For now, if you are socially extraverted yet feel things deeply, ponder the meaning of life, reflect before acting, and need a lot of down time, please, be patient. If you are socially introverted but not especially bothered by loud noise, are not very emotional, and make decisions rather easily, please also be patient. We’ll get it right about you, too.”

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9 Steps to Writing Your First Résumé

Help Your Teen Take the First Step To the Future

If you’re the parent of a teenager you might be getting ready to watch your child cross to that exciting and slightly nerve-wracking world of “the first job” – whether it is working at the local drive thru, the mall, as a lifeguard, or in an office somewhere. Between the economy and the crazy-busy lives of teens, getting that first job is not always easy. Sometimes it seems that until your child has that first job that there is nothing to include on a résumé. My daughter had those same hesitations, but I reassured her that when she started adding up her life experiences thus far, she would have plenty for a starter résumé. Help your kids get off to the best start possible by sharing some résumé building tips with them (or just send them the link to this article and away we go!).

Resume, Résumé, Curriculum Vitae, or CV – Not Matter What You Call It, Here’s How to Write It

1. Make a practice, all-purpose résumé. This will be the one you can pull out for any occasion, and is the roadmap for your more specific, job-directed applications. This résumé should include:

  • Full first name and last name
  • Complete address, phone number, and email
  • Location of education thus far and anticipated month and year of high school graduation – if the GPA is 3.0 or higher, include that as well
  • A list of extracurricular activities
  • A list of clubs and organizations in which you participate
  • A list of volunteer activities and community projects in which you participate
  • A list of awards received
  • A description of special skills and certifications (CPR, Class Officer, computer programs, etc.)

All of these attributes help to show the depth and breadth of your life. It is generally a good idea to begin an all-purpose résumé or CV with school information and then move on with the most impressive details from there. If you have an amazing history of community service, you could consider beginning with that instead of education.

2. When you find a specific job for which you want to apply, read the job description carefully for keywords. See if there are skills you have acquired through classes, community activities, or clubs that transfer to job experience. My daughter volunteered at a community gift store so she had acquired customer service, cash register, and retail skills and experiences before ever being hired for her first job.

3. Take those skills and highlight them by placing them towards the first section of the résumé. This might mean that you move education details to the 2nd or 3rd entry, but you will have a better chance of gaining the attention of your potential employer by placing those keywords up front.

4. Don’t reinforce stereotypes of teenagers.

  • Avoid slang and shorthand, texting lingo.
  • Check your Facebook account and other social media sites to make sure that your photographs are appropriate and won’t cause your résumé to be tossed aside.
  • Know exactly what your potential employer will find when searching for your name online. Google yourself if you’re not sure – and check more than the first 2 pages.
  • Be prepared to answer your phone professionally in case you do get called for an interview.

5. Prepare a list of references and include those with your résumé on a separate sheet (unless specifically directly otherwise by the job listing). Make sure that the people on your list are not just your friends or their parents. Include leaders in the community with whom you’ve developed a relationship, teachers of specialized, smaller classes, church leaders, and leaders of youth groups. It is also good to include an adult family friend on the list who can attest to your personal nature.

6. Proofread your résumé, and then have at least three other people check it for you as well. Like the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and your résumé will be your first impression.

7. Use your résumé in mock interviews. Many high schools and colleges will conduct mock interview sessions periodically. Take in your résumé and have those at the mock interview review your résumé as well. The more feedback you receive, the better off your final product will be.

8. Ask adults who work in various fields to look over your résumé, especially if they work in human resources or other hiring capacities. Ask them what they look for in job applications and see if there is a way to apply those ideas to your résumé.

9. If you look at your résumé and don’t have any extracurricular activities, community service experiences, or club affiliations, there is still time to get active. Not only will those acquired skills help you create a complete 1st résumé, but you’ll learn valuable skills and perhaps get a new inspiration for the directions of your life.

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Healthy Growth for Babies and Toddlers

Healthy Growth for Babies and Toddlers

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Measures of Child Development

Many parents consistently wonder if their children are on track, making appropriate strides for their ages, and experiencing all of those important milestones that are signs of a healthy child. We go to the pediatrician and trace their height and weight on a chart, mark on the calendar when they say their first words and took their first steps.

The Touchpoints Model of Child Development

Originally published in Infants and Young Children, (10, 74-84, 1997), authors Maureen O’Brien and Kristie Brandt, along with other colleagues, explored and described a system of growth measurement based on a new model – Touchpoints. Republished in The Irreducible Needs of Children, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. and Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., the Touchpoints model has 8 core principles.

  1. Value and understand the relationship between you and the parent.
  2. Use the behavior of the child as your language.
  3. Recognize what you bring to the interaction.
  4. Be willing to discuss matters that go beyond your traditional role.
  5. Look for opportunities to support parental mastery.
  6. Focus on the parent-child relationship.
  7. Value passion wherever you find it.
  8. Value disorganization and vulnerability as an opportunity.

These basic ideas behind the Touchpoints model are directed at children during the first three years of their lives (including prenatal growth). The premises of the Touchpoints model are that developmental changes for young children can disrupt the family system and that if parents are made more aware of the stages, their reactions can be more direct and nurturing. If we know what is coming (and that it is normal and healthy), we can react to it more positively and see even the frustrating and challenging changes as successful milestones.

The 12 Major Stages of the Touchpoints Model

  1. Prenatal Touchpoint – During this stage parents prepare for the birth of their child physically and emotionally, and they draw upon their imaginations to envision what their baby will look like and how he or she will grow as a part of their family. Pregnant mothers often strengthen their own nurturing bonds with other women, especially other mothers, during this touchpoint.
  2. Newborn Touchpoint – Parents experience a flood of emotions as their child is born. No longer reliant upon their imaginations, parents form a new set of attachment bonds with their newborn child.
  3. 3 Week Touchpoint – Parents are often exhausted, and at this stage are at risk for emotional and physical stress and anxiety. Feeding takes on an enormous role – the schedule, the rate of weight gain, and even the diapering are all markers of development. The babies are beginning to demonstrate their own temperaments as they react to the care of their parents. Families with newborns at the 3 week touchpoint see changes in their relationships with friends, extended family members, and their communities.
  4. 6-8 Week Touchpoint – Babies at this stage are more social, having longer periods of alertness. Parents are usually feeling more relaxed in their roles and their exhaustion has eased. They are also feeling more confident as they are learning to understand their babies’ cues and are implementing schedules that work for the family. The one area that might be suffering the most is the intimacy of the adult relationship as both Mom and Dad have to once again figure out how to be Wife and Husband.
  5. 4 Month Touchpoint – Parents and their babies have developed strong emotional ties with each other and there is more predictability in expectations – both emotionally and schedule-wise. Babies become increasingly engaged in the outside world and are using more effective methods for getting attention. Often fathers feel more comfortable at this stage as they can engage more easily and feel less intimidated with the fragility of their children. It might be hard for some mothers to relinquish their primary role as their babies develop relationships with dads and siblings.
  6. 7 Month Touchpoint – Babies have developed more physical control over their movements and they are able to explore more easily. They have figured out the pincer grasp and can use their hands for more purposeful exploration. Feeding by breastfeeding or bottles is slowly being replaced by more active feeding of soft foods. Many babies go through a challenging sleep stage at this point, resisting going to bed and staying asleep. They are also learning more about objects and are experimenting with manipulating them.
  7. 9 Month Touchpoint – Motor skills are kicking into high gear during this stage and work hard to get where they want to go. They also test social reactions – throwing things to get your attention – and they expand these social tests to reacting to people in their lives more distinctly. Babies might also apply their social testing to eating and sleeping habits – pushing the limit to see who is really in control – Mom or baby.
  8. 12 Month Touchpoint – The attachment of the baby to his parents gives him the security to test independence, but at other times he also seeks comfort at great levels. Babies are learning at lightening-speed – exploring objects and assessing how people and things work together. At this stage there can be higher levels of frustration for both parents and babies as communication is not always clear, but the expectations for baby are growing.
  9. 15 Month Touchpoint – Moving into the toddler stage means seeking autonomy, which can be challenging for everyone, but there can also be increases in attachment desires. Fine motor skills are becoming more refined, and communication through language is emphasized more. Babies may not be able to clearly communicate with words, but it is more important at this stage that they comprehend the words around them.
  10. 18 Month Touchpoint – There is often a dramatic increase in use of language and imaginary play. Toddlers develop a sense of self, which can lead to inevitable battles for control. Most toddlers have developed a vocabulary of at least a few words.
  11. 2 Year Touchpoint – The imagination runs full force at this stage, where toys become props. Toddlers also develop the ability to form short sentences and dramatically increase their ability to understand language. The advances in physical, emotional, and verbal abilities leads to what are referred to as “the terrible twos” – but what are actually the emergence of a toddler who believes her agenda supersedes that of everyone else. She is the center of her world, and can be frustrated when others don’t follow her lead.
  12. 3 Year Touchpoint – Parents might see the emergence of imaginary friends as pretend play becomes more vivid. This coincides with increases in fears and phobias, as rationalization is not yet a skill. The three-year-old has major increases in language development, both in processing and in speech. Peer relationships with siblings and playmates takes on a new life, and three-year-olds begin to better understand social cues and expectations.

Recognizing these touchpoints as turning points in lives of our young children can help us find ways to help them express themselves more effectively, communicate at their levels, and nurture their needs. We might not be able to pinpoint these on a chart, but they are fundamental stages that healthy children experience.


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Are Boys Naturally Competitive?

The Roles of Nature and Nurture in Competition

If my own microcosm experience of raising 3 sons and a daughter isn’t enough indication for me, recent research shows that there is a distinct gender gap between the competitiveness boys and girls demonstrate as early as three years of age. In Gender Differences in Competition Emerge Early in Life, by Matthias Sutter and Daniela Rutzler, the results of several major experiments show what I have seen in my own home – boys turn almost anything and everything into a competition.

“Mom, watch and see who does more crunches.”

“Mom, I can do 4 more pull-ups than he can do.”

“Who wants to race me to the mailbox?”

“Where is the scoreboard?”

If you’re raising sons like I am, these phrases are probably pretty familiar to you, as well as others that distinctly raise the competition bar between my boys and their testosterone laden friends who come over and hang out for the afternoon. They will find opportunities to compete in the most unique ways – who can catch the most grapes mid-air with their mouth, can belch the loudest, can climb the highest, yell the longest without taking a breath, and on, and on, and on. The girls, on the other hand, can spend 12 hours straight together and never once challenge each other to a popcorn eating contest, home-run derby, or to see who can beat their chest the loudest with their fists. It just doesn’t happen. Why?

How Does Gender Influence Competition?

The research conducted and analyzed by Sutter and Rutlzer reveal that

  • There is a strong difference between the willingness of boys and girls to engage in competition.
  • Even when girls are equally or more qualified, they shy away from competition if given a choice.
  • Boys tend to increase their performance success rates when they are competing.
  • Boys are more likely to choose competition versus non-competitive activities, even when they do not have a great likelihood of success.

In studies that looked at children between the ages of 3 and 18 years of age, the gender gap in competitiveness persisted at all age levels. However, the reasons for these differences are not as easy as just boy vs. girl. There are definitely nature and nurture components to the roles that gender plays when it comes to competitiveness.

  • Hormonal fluctuations for females have been shown to dramatically impact their competitive choices.
  • Students who attended girls-only schools were not as likely to decline competition opportunities as those girls who attended co-ed schools.
  • Conversations observed between parents and children specifically showed differences as to how parents related to their daughters as compared to their sons when it came to competition.
  • Studies show that there are structural differences in the brains of boys and girls, meaning that there is a strong likelihood that nature impacts the drive for competition among boys.

How Can I Minimize Negative Nurturing?

I’m one of those parents who believes that for the most part, my boys are biologically different when it comes to their natural drive for competition, yet I do recognize that the social components and framewords in which I raise my sons nurtures their attitudes. I am also honestly pretty competitive myself – I was the only girl on my elementary baseball team, still love to give it my all playing games, and don’t tend to back down from a challenge. I just don’t have an innate need to create competitions out of the mundane. Researchers and child psychologists say that it is important for parents to

  • Give girls opportunities for competition.
  • Encourage girls to compete.
  • Make sure that boys know they can choose not to compete, and give them tools for declining competition.
  • Treat children equally when it comes to competition – and not react negatively or overly positive for either choice.
  • Find fun ways to include competition, especially for girls.

Parenting boys and girls does require different skill sets, but we can’t let gender determine everything. Those biological differences when it comes to competitiveness can’t be ignored, and we can make conscious decisions to offer balanced opportunities.

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