1. Time-Out Alternative: Time-In

    When it comes to dealing with a child’s bad behavior, the time-out is one of the most tried and true tools in a parent’s kit. The prevailing wisdom is that it gives kids a few minutes to cool off, reflect about what they have done, and realize that their actions have consequences.  However, there are lessons a time-out doesn’t teach, like regulating your emotions, cooperating with your parents, or deescalating. Some parents are doing the exact opposite of the time-out and using a technique known as the time-in.

    A time-in is when you sit your child down calmly to comfort them and talk about the bad behavior. As opposed to a punishment, the time-in lets you find out what pushed your child to a certain behavior and create a cooperative plan to stop it from happening again. Most negative behavior doesn’t come from nowhere, so a time-in can help a parent understand what is going through their child’s mind. It also helps children reconcile and further examine their negative emotions.

    Many kids, when left to their own devices during time-out time, will blame others as opposed to really thinking about what they have done. Kids can have trouble sorting out their actions and their emotions. A time-in lets you, the parent, take control and say “Emotion X is okay, action X is not” and from there move the conversation to “What is a more productive way to deal with emotion X?”

    Another problem with the time-out is that it loses its effectiveness after a certain age. Are you really going to give your teenager a time-out? Probably not. By getting into the habit of talking through problems now, you establish a lifelong habit of talking through your child’s inappropriate behaviors.

    Many parents are skeptical of the time-in because they don’t want to feel they are rewarding a bad behavior. The first thing to remember is that a time-in is not a punishment, but it’s not a reward either. It’s simply a different, more proactive tool for dealing with problem behavior. Try it out – you may be surprised at the results. 

     

     

  2. 5 Ways to Maximize Family Time

    Spending more time with loved ones often tops a parent’s priorities list. It’s a simple goal, but how do you take practical steps to make it happen? Here are five easy tips for any parent looking to make more family memories.

    Family Meals

    Whether it’s a weekend brunch or a Tuesday night spent gathered around a pizza, mealtime can easily become family time. Gathering around food is never a tough sell, just make sure to inform all you family member ahead of time to clear their busy schedules for a sit-down meal. Maybe you’ll even get some mileage out of that dining room table!

    Charity

    Getting involved with a charity as a family can be greatly rewarding. It’s also a nice balance of family time and social time, allowing your family to spend time together while meeting others in your community. Scheduling can be difficult at first, but once you make it part of your routine, your family may find charity to be the most joyous part of the week.


    Chores

    No one wants to do chores, but they have to get done. And as the old saying goes, “misery loves company.” And even if chores aren’t exactly miserable for you, they’re a lot more fun if you do them with family. Try breaking off into teams to tackle various tasks. Put on some motivational music or just chat while you get to work.

    Rotating Activities

    If you designate a few hours a week for a planned activity, you can rotate which family member gets to decide what to do. You may find yourself playing your son’s favorite videogame one week and getting amateur dance lessons from your daughter the next. Don’t worry – you’ll get your chance to share your interests with your family as well.

    Sharing Screen Time

    Many parents complain that when they get home everyone in the household is glued to one screen or another. Why not all watch something together? With so much media at your fingertips, it should be easy to find a TV show or movie everyone can agree on. Whatever you end up watching, make sure to engage your kids in conversation after – that can be the best part. 

     

  3. Summers Plans Start Now!

    Summer is a few months away, but smart parents know that now is the time to start planning. During the school year everyone is busy with schoolwork, sports, and a host of other activities. Summer grinds all that to a halt. Many families enjoy the change of pace as it allows for more family time. But if kids don’t have stuff to do, they get bored. And if they get bored, they get cranky. And if they get cranky…well, you know the rest. No one likes spending summer days cooped up at home, so check out how you can start planning an activity-packed summer for your kids!

    When the temperature starts to rise, any place with a strong air conditioner is a treat to visit. If there’s an art or history museum in your area, chances are they have a program for children. These programs often reasonably priced, since most museums are non-profit organizations. Local libraries often put together reading and other activity groups for kids. Even if your child doesn’t like the idea of being in a “class” over the summer, encourage them to check out the list of programs with you. Many are way more fun than what they’d be doing in school, and can encourage their interests in a more personalized way than school.     

    Local pools, lakes, beaches, and other waterside attractions are perennial summertime favorites. But, like anything, if you do watersports, it’s worth doing the right way. If your children don’t swim yet, now is the time to sign them up for lessons. Look online for local pools and classes. Your children will thank you when they’re outswimming their peers.  

    Whether going on a hiking trip in the mountains or a jaunt to the beach, summer is the time to plan trips with the family. There are many low-cost options for outdoor trips, but whether it’s gas for the car or a new tent, family trips all end up costing something. If you start planning summer trips now, it’ll allow you to budget more effectively – which means extra money for ice cream.

    Even if you plan summer trips every weekend, you’ll still probably end up at home a lot with your kids. Stocking up on books, movies, video games, board games, and other in-home activities our kids can do when you’re not around is a smart move. What’s more, now is the time to get summer wear at the biggest discounts of the year. Swim trunks, anyone?

     

  4. Let’s Get Gardening!

    Though spring’s full bloom is yet to come, those of us with green thumbs have already started gathering the tools and supplies we will need for our gardens. But did you know that gardening can be a great teaching tool for kids? Gardening lets them see firsthand the connection between the food they eat and the natural world around them. It also helps them develop the skills to care for another living thing.

    If kids become interested the biology and climate science of gardening, it can become a great tool for teaching science. Other kids are more enticed by the colors and flavors of plant life, which gives you a great platform for teaching about cooking and healthy eating. Gardening also teaches more general skills like responsibility and seeing things through. It’s a great way to show that a bit of effort and care every day will produce something worthwhile.  

    Besides the educational benefits, gardening is a fun way to spend some time as a family. Kids take great pride when the whole family sits around the table and eats something that has herbs or veggies they helped grow. Try letting your kids name the plants – that way, it’s easier to see them as living beings with distinct characteristics.

    And don’t think that gardening only applies to suburbanites with backyards; apartment dwellers can beautify their home with plants just as well. Anywhere with some space and sufficient light in your apartment can become a miniature garden. Windowsills, fire escapes, and roofs are all popular spots. Many herbs, such as mint, basil, oregano, and tarragon, and some vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, don’t require any specialized gardening skills to grow. All you really need is a bit of space, a planter, dirt, and a watering can.

    If gardening is not an option in your home, look into community gardens. These local cooperative food gardens are springing up in communities across the country, and have been endorsed my Michelle Obama and others. They’re a great way to dip your feet into the gardening world, meet some other parents and kids, and teach your kids some valuable lessons.

     

  5. The Diaper Bag Checklist

    Sunshine. Snacks. Smiles. Outings with baby can be a dream. But if you go unprepared, they can quickly turn into a nightmare. 

    Never fear, though. Our no-nonsense guide puts together a checklist of diaper bag essentials, and some tips for carrying it all.

    First, let’s break down everything a successful diaper bag should have:

    Diapers: at least one diaper for each hour you’ll be out of the house. 

    Wipes: not just for diaper changes, but also for dirty hands. Hand sanitizer is also a good idea.  

    Changing Pad: luckily, almost all the diaper bags we sell include one. 

    Plastic Bags: to store dirty diapers and other things you don’t want floating around unsealed in your diaper bag. Rather than buying new plastic bags, collect old grocery bags or get some biodegradable bags.

    Bottles, Sippy Cups, Snack Keepers, Snacks & Drinks: for bottles, go for whichever is baby’s favorite. For sippy cups and snack keepers, look for ones that are designed to prevent spills.

    Blanket: you can use a blanket to bundle baby up, provide a changing area, or create some shade on a sunny to day. The plusher the better!

    Extra Clothes: a light jacket is always a good idea. 

    Sunscreen: a sunhat might also come in handy.

    First-Aid Kit: because you never know.  

    Sounds like a lot, right? So how’s a mom supposed to carry all this stuff?

    First off, choose a diaper bag that’s comfortable for you. An ergonomic choice like this will help with heavy loads.

    But it’s also important to take a load off sometimes. Don’t ever hesitate to enlist dad, big brother, and big sister to help out with toting the diaper bag. Hint: they’ll be a lot more amenable to tackling this task if the diaper bag doesn’t look too embarrassing on their arm. Check out some of our more gender-neutral diaper bags, like this and this.

    Spring is on the horizon, and that means you’ll be able to get out and see the world with your little one – but only if you’re packed up and ready to go!

    Source: http://www.babycenter.com/0_checklist-what-to-put-in-your-diaper-bag_10328766.bc

     

  6. Limiting Sugar Intake

    Parents want their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Eating fruits and vegetables, limiting fat intake, and keeping tabs on portion sizes is an excellent way of doing this, and standard procedure for most parents. One thing that frequently sneaks under parental radar, however, is sugar. According to Forbes magazine, the average American child consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Medical Association suggests no more than 9 – and that’s for adults!

    Should you limit your child’s sugar intake? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Sugar has been linked to obesity, nervousness, acne, fatigue, diabetes, and a host of other conditions. The less sugar any person takes in, the better, but for children, sugar is doubly damaging because they’re learning eating habits now that will follow them through life.

    Most parents are aware that sugar is not something they should be feeding their children. So how does so much make it into our kids’ diets? The two biggest culprits are sugary drinks and sweet snacks. Most parents would not knowingly let their kid eat 10 teaspoons of sugar, yet one can of Coke contains precisely that much. Sport drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored waters are equally as saccharine.

    As a parent, it’s a good idea to check the labels. Even seemingly healthy foods like kids’ yogurts and sorbet can contain tons of sugar. It doesn’t mean they can’t be part of your child’s diet at all, but it’s up to you to monitor overall sugar intake, and that means cutting down wherever you can.

    If you decide to limit your child’s sugar intake, it’s a good idea to do it gradually. A slow taper from sugary foods to healthier ones has a better chance of succeeding than a crash diet approach. Try replacing sodas with water, seltzer, or homemade drinks. Ice tea is great because you can choose a flavor your kids will love and limit sugar to one teaspoon per glass. If your child has a sweet tooth, point them to naturally sweet snacks like fresh and dried fruit.

    The earlier you start your children on the path of monitoring and limiting sugar intake, the healthier they will be for the rest of their lives. Having less sugar food in your home will be a boon to everyone’s health, including your own. 

     

  7. Kids & Social Media

    Social media confounds many parents. Parents who don’t have experience with social media are at a loss, and many parents who do are unsure how they should monitor and interact with their kids via these channels. The news is full of stories involving kids misbehaving and getting into trouble on social media, so how can you make sure you’re setting the right rules for your kids?  More importantly, how can you proactively protect your kids on social media?

    The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t done it already, is create social media accounts. Join Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other network that your kids are a part of. Connect with your kids. Just the fact they know that you can see what they are doing online will make them think twice before posting a questionable picture or less than thoughtful comment.

    Some parents want to know their kids’ passwords so they can see firsthand everything they’re doing online. That certainly makes it easier to monitor your kids, but for some parents it’s a case of too much information. Password sharing depends strongly on the level of privacy you afford your kids, and ultimately on their level of maturity.

    No matter how much privacy your kids have, there are certain things you should review with them. Make sure they understand that a lot of the same rules that apply to strangers on the street apply to people on social media. They should never give out their personal information and immediately report any harassment – whether from peers or from strangers. When it comes to their personal conduct, just remind them that you are on the same networks they are. Anything they wouldn’t want you to see shouldn’t be online at all.

    It’s important for parents to look past some of the negative characteristics of social media to see its true value. If you use social media as a way to monitor and interact with your kids, it’s an invaluable window into their lives. 

     

  8. Let’s Get a Pet!

    Getting a first pet is a monumental occasion in any child’s life. From the moment you bring that animal through the door, your kids will love it. Most parents eventually find themselves enamored with the family pet as well. All too often, however, families choose pets that they can’t handle, and those pets get sent back to the stores or shelters from which they came. It’s a sad event for both the pet and the family. How can you ensure your family chooses a pet that will be with you for a long time to come?

    The first thing you need to do is research. What kind of pet best fits your family’s lifestyle? Do you have the time and energy to devote to a dog? Are you home enough for a cat? How much responsibility will the parents shoulder? What about the kids? These are all things you need to figure out and discuss before you make any trip to a shelter or pet store.

    Dogs are the most popular American pet. Most dog owners view their pet as part of the family. If choosing a dog, make sure to factor in age, breed, and disposition. Does your family have the time and space necessary for a big, high-energy puppy? Maybe you would be more comfortable with a smaller dog that needs less exercise? Keep in mind you will need to take the time to train any dog so it can adjust to life with your family.

    Cats are the second most popular American pet. Many people assume that if they get a cat and put out a litter box and food bowl, the rest will take care of itself. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although cats require less effort than dogs, they still need play and attention every day. Also, a family that travels a lot needs to make sure someone can take care of their cat when they are gone.

    If you aren’t ready to jump headlong into pet ownership, consider a starter pet, something that doesn’t require too much attention. Good examples include hamsters, goldfish, mice, and finches. These pets are a good way to make sure your family has the time to clean, feed, and care for an animal. If things work out, you’ll know your family is ready for a long term commitment.

     

  9. Making Time for Time Management

    Time management is an important life skill, and the earlier you can teach it to your kids, the better. Proper time management not only leads to better academic performance, it lets your kids free up time to do whatever they want, which reduces stress. But when and how do you start teaching your kids about managing time?

    Kids 10 - 13 years old typically have a basic understand of timing and deadlines. This is also around when academics and other activities can really start to pile on, overwhelming many kids, so it’s a good idea to start teaching time management before things get really hectic at school or at home. If you’re looking for a good time of year to teach time management, try teaching them around summer, the end of a school vacation, or any other generally slow time when they can devote some extra capacity to the project of time management.

    Ask your child to split up their upcoming deadlines and events into have-to-do and want-to-do tasks. Have-to-dos will be things like math homework or soccer practice, while want-to-dos will be things like playing video games or chatting with friends on the phone. This teaches them to prioritize.

    Once tasks and times have been divided, the more difficult part begins: making a schedule. Making a schedule can be tricky because it can be hard to determine how much time is needed nightly for a long-term project. A heavy load of homework one night can throw off the whole rest of the week’s schedule. Let your child know these are just estimates and they can always adjust things as they go. As time goes on, they should have a better idea of how long a given task will actually take. It helps to overestimate how much time a task will take, especially in the beginning. Any surplus time becomes time for want-to-do tasks.

    It’s important to get your child into the habit of constantly updating and adjusting their schedule. If they have a smartphone or tablet, make sure they’re using the calendar function, but if not, invest in a simple paper calendar for them. This makes it easier to keep track of due dates and social obligations so they’ll never miss a beat. One might think that keeping track of play dates is excessive, but it’s just as valid a way to learn time management as scheduling math homework.      

    Time management habits carry through kids’ college years and into their adult life. People with good time management skills experience less stress than their disorganized peers, because they find they actually have the time to relax. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?

     

  10. Bedtime Means Bedtime

    Many kids will avoid going to sleep no matter how exhausted they are. They’ll argue with you while yawning and rubbing their eyes. If this is the situation in your household, you may wonder about whether your kids are really getting the sleep they need. What methods can you use to make sure your kids are getting to bed and sleeping enough?

    WebMD offers this handy breakdown for how much sleep kids should be getting: 3 – 6 year olds, 10 – 12 hours of sleep; 7 – 12 year olds, 10 – 11 hours of sleep; 12 – 18 year olds, 8 – 9 hours of sleep. These are rough guidelines that you can alter to suit your child’s needs. Trust your instincts; if your kids look tired all the time, they’re not getting enough sleep.

    No matter what age your kids are, it’s important to stick to a regular schedule for bedtime. If you make sure your child gets to bed and wakes up at the same time every day, they’ll begin to develop an internal rhythm. In a matter of weeks you won’t need to remind them about bedtime, because their biological clock will be primed for sleep. Being on a schedule also makes it easier to wake up in the morning.

    Even with a schedule in place, many children will bicker with you when night arrives, claiming they’re not tired. Why do kids do this? Sometimes the mind just doesn’t realize how tired the body is. Certain activities can exacerbate this problem. Screen time of any sort – computer, TV, mobile phone – often disrupts the process of winding down toward sleep. You may want to consider banning or limiting the use of such devices in the hour or two before bed. Replace screen time with activities more conducive to falling asleep, like reading a book or listening to music.

    Many kids, especially energetic ones, simply don’t get enough opportunities during the day to put their energy to good use. This can lead to genuine sleeplessness. Make sure your child is getting enough exercise. An hour or two at the park or playing in the backyard can make all the difference when it comes to bedtime. Limiting sugar and caffeine intake is another way to make sure your children feel sufficiently tired at night.

    If your kids are still not sleeping after taking these kinds of steps, contact your pediatrician to look into other sources of insomnia. But for most kids, these tips will suffice and they’ll be asleep in no time.