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Archive for July, 2012

Teaching Kids Good Sportsmanship

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Whenever the Olympics approach, parents, caregivers and athletic coaches are presented with the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of sportsmanship to their kids and emphasize its importance. Athletes from around the globe will converge to compete against one another for worldwide recognition, and the vast majority will do so with grace by showing strong sportsmanship every step of the way.

Between youth league team sports, school physical activity initiatives, and the variety of athletic lessons and skills that today’s kids participate in, there are tons of opportunities every day for kids to showcase either sportsmanlike qualities or the foibles of a sore loser. Emotions tend to run high, especially in younger children, making it even more difficult for them to display themselves as a good sport. There are several ways that parents and authority figures can help kids to become sportsmanlike competitors; these are a few of the simplest and most effective.

  • Model Sportsmanlike Conduct – Kids learn by emulating the adults that are important to them, so it’s imperative that parents, coaches, and caregivers model good sportsmanship at every opportunity. That means applauding good plays regardless of who made them, keeping negative comments and criticisms to yourself, and never making a child feel bad about himself because of an athletic mistake.
  • Don’t Focus on Wins and Losses – Instead of focusing on the wins and losses of a kids’ sports team, adults should concentrate on acknowledging good plays and offering supportive assistance to build skills that children are less confident in. Emphasizing the importance of playing to the best of your abilities rather than obsessing over a win helps kids feel less absorbed with scoring and allows them to be more in tune with teamwork and dedication.
  • Never Reward Excessive Aggression – A child that delivers a win through overly-aggressive conduct should be congratulated on her success, but also encouraged to do so in a manner that can’t be construed as bullying the other players on the field.
  • Instill a Sense of Pride – When children are praised and taught to feel a sense of pride in their athletic accomplishments, parents and coaches can also help to instill a sense of humility. Kids that learn the difference between confidence and cockiness are also beginning to understand the concept of sportsmanlike conduct versus swaggering conceit.
  • Emphasize the Importance of Having Fun – At a young age, even budding athletic stars are still learning the fundamentals of the game and are beginning to build the foundations of skill. Kids that feel pressured to perform beyond their means or are forced into participation are not only almost certain to grow to resent their sport, but also to become more focused on winning at all costs. Keep kids’ sports focused on having fun, working together and building skills that may be valuable in the future.
  • Don’t Coach From the Bleachers – In addition to embarrassing your child, shouting at his teammates, coaches, and the other team from the sidelines is a great way to teach kids exactly how not to behave. There’s nothing sportsmanlike about railing the other team, berating children for a fumble, or badmouthing a coach your child looks up to. Remember the first rule of teaching kids to be a good sport is to model that behavior yourself, and this includes refraining from taking on the head coach role from the bleachers.
  • Point Out Good – and Bad – Conduct in Professional Athletes – The Olympic Games and other sporting events provide parents and coaches with a great opportunity to point out stellar sportsmanship, but it can also create talking points for discussing bad conduct on the part of a professional athlete or sports figure. When major sports names make the news for either a temper tantrum or an impressive display of grace, talk about it with your kids. Ask them how they feel about the situation, creating a dialogue that allows you to both hear what your child has to say and pass along the wisdom that you’ve learned over the years.

Discouraging kids from looking up to trash-talking, insulting athletes who make a name for themselves by bashing their teammates and opponents is one of the most important steps to helping them learn to be good sports themselves, as children will model their own behavior after that of their heroes. While you can’t control who your kids look up to, you can calmly and gently point out their favorite stars’ attitudes, when they’re someone to look up to, and where they have room for improvement. Remember, though; badmouthing a rude professional athlete to your child isn’t likely to be viewed by her as much different from that athlete threatening to pulverize his opponents. Choose your words carefully, and help your kids become the best sports they can be.

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10 Classic Books to Read with Your Child

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Reading with your child is an enjoyable activity that many parents love to do with their kids, and according to the U.S. Department of Education is one worth doing often. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that it will not only help her learn to read, but it will also help her to be successful throughout all of her education and onto her career.  Check out these classic stories that you may remember from your childhood and read them with your children.

  1. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe published in 1719.  This book is about an adventurer who ends up being the only person to live through a disastrous ship wreck.  He survives alone on an island for almost 30 years, and the story offers an important lesson about learning to rely on yourself. The lessons can be applied not only to Crusoe in the novel, but also to any challenges your child may face.
  2. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Rudolph Wyss published in 1813.  Amazingly enough this is another story about a ship wreck.  Back when these stories were written the big adventures happened on the high seas.  This story is about a family that survives for 10 years on a deserted island.  The details of how the family adapted to life on the island are marvelous and by reading this story you can reinforce to your kids how important it is to use their imagination in their everyday lives. 
  3. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie published in 1904.  A classic story about Peter Pan who, as a baby, was rescued by fairies and taken to Neverland.  He becomes the leader of the Lost Boys, and wants a life with no responsibility and the ability to play all the time.  When Peter goes back to London he gets involved with Wendy and her brothers.  He takes them with him to Neverland and they have lots of exciting adventures with Captain Hook.  
  4. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas published in 1844.  Set in France, this story is about a young hot head, D’Artagnan, who comes to town and fights with each of the 3 musketeers.  A musketeer was a soldier that carried a musket.  He ended up finding that they had a lot in common and he joined with them on an adventure to retrieve some diamond earrings for Queen Anne.  D’Artagnan is begged to do this task by the woman he’s in love with and convinces the 3 musketeers to help him, as they bind together to protect the kingdom.
  5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis published in 1950.  Four children are sent to the country during World War II to keep them safe.  The children are bored, and end up playing hide and seek one day, only to find that the wardrobe that young Lucy has hidden in is actually a doorway to another world called Narnia.  She convinces her brothers and sister to come with her to Narnia.  They are all shocked and amazed.  What further amazes them is that they learn they are to become the kings and queens of Narnia.  But before that can happen they have to defeat the witch, who has made it Winter all the time, and bring back Spring.    
  6. A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne published in 1864.  There’s something about having to follow a map that leads to great adventures, and this fabulous science fiction novel starts out with just that.  The map leads to an opening that goes to the center of the earth.  Professor Trevor Anderson, Sean, and their guide, take off to find Trevor’s brother.  During their trip they find dangerous and fantastical animals and risk their lives to find a lost world at the center of the earth.
  7. Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving published in 1820.  A curious story about Rip Van Winkle who was kind of lazy and wandered around having fun.  He ran into a bunch of guys bowling in the woods and ended up staying with them enjoying the games and the drink.  After he drinks this strange liquid he sits down under a tree and falls asleep for 20 years.  When he wakes up the world around him is quite different. 
  8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll published in 1865.  The book is very different than the Disney version of this story.  Alice gets bored as most children do, but Alice decides to follow this white rabbit down his hole.  She ends up in Wonderland and eats and drinks all sorts of magical things to make her big and small.  In the end she makes friends with many strange characters and learns that maybe her life isn’t so bad after all.
  9. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain published in 1876.  Tom is a sneaky sort of boy and likes to play tricks on people.  During the story he is told he must white wash a fence.  To avoid this task, he manipulates people into doing his job for him.  He embarks on other adventures that teach him a few lessons in the end.
  10. Heidi by Johanna Spyri published in 1884.  Heidi loses her parents and becomes an orphan.  She is sent to live in the mountains with her only living relative, her grumpy old grandpa.  Over time she wins him over with her bright personality and the two enjoy living together in the mountains.  Then it’s decided that Heidi needs to attend school in the city and take care of a girl in a wheelchair.  This girl ends up becoming Heidi’s best friend and then Heidi is forced to make the difficult decision between staying in the city with her friend and going back to her mountain home with her grandpa. 

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What Your Babysitter Needs to Know

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

While it may seem like overkill to provide your babysitter with tons of information when you’re only going out to dinner and a show, it’s not. How long a caregiver will be with your children shouldn’t determine whether or not you’ll give her important information that can help her care for your children and keep them safe and engaged while you are away.

If you’ve hired a new babysitter, consider asking her to come 30 minutes before you plan to head out so that you can review important information. If you have a regular babysitter or two, consider posting important information on the fridge so that it’s obvious and easily accessible.

So what constitutes important information that all babysitter’s should have?

Basic Information

Provide the babysitter with basic identifying information about your family.

  • Parent’s first and last names
  • Children’s first and last names
  • Children’s dates of birth
  • Children’s height, weight, eye color and hair color
  • Home address
  • Home phone number
  • Nearest intersection or cross street

Medical Information

Provide the babysitter with any medical information she needs to know.

  • Allergies
  • Medications
  • Permission to administer medications, if necessary
  • Medical concerns
  • Pediatrician’s phone number
  • Health insurance card / information
  • Authorization to treat a minor

Emergency Information

Provide the babysitter with information she’d need in an emergency.

  • Poison Control phone number
  • Emergency phone number
  • Fire department phone number
  • Nearest hospital name and address
  • Name and phone number of a neighbor
  • Name and phone number of a family friend
  • Location of first-aid supplies
  • Location of fire extinguishers

While You’re Out

Provide the babysitter with information about where you are going, when you’ll be home and how you can be reached.

  • Location and phone number of where you will be
  • Parent’s cell phone numbers
  • Estimated time parents will be home

House Rules

Provide your babysitter with information about what’s acceptable and what’s not in your home, as well as an overview of typical schedules and routines.

  • What can the children eat? When?
  • What can the children drink? When?
  • What time is bedtime?
  • What is the bedtime routine?
  • What are the screen time rules?
  • What activities are encouraged?
  • What activities are prohibited?
  • How is misbehavior handled?
  • Is there a house alarm and is it used?

Children’s Interests

Provide your babysitter within information on your child’s likes, dislikes and interests.

  • Child’s favorite toy
  • Child’s favorite activity
  • Child’s favorite comfort item
  • Anything your child does not like

Additional Information

Provide your babysitter with any additional information that will help her to care for your children.

  •  i.e., My child typically asks for a drink before bed. We offer her water only, in a sippy cup, to keep by her bed.
  •  i.e., If my child tells you he has to tinkle, it means he needs to use the bathroom.
  • i.e., If my child starts to cry for Starblaze, that’s her favorite blue blanket that is on her bed.

Leaving your children with a new babysitter can be stressful, but the more prepared your babysitter is to care for your children the more relaxing of an experience it will be for both you and the babysitter. While it can be tempting to just leave your cell phone number with the babysitter and nothing else, don’t. Provide your babysitter with the important information she’ll need to keep your children safe and engaged while you are away.

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10 Tips for Keeping Peace Among Siblings

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

For parents and caregivers of multiple children, keeping the peace among siblings can seem like a full-time job in and of itself. Siblings may fight for a parent’s attention, they may fight over a toy, or they may fight because their developmental levels are so different from one another that it’s hard for them to relate to each other. If siblings have opposing temperaments, such as when one is laid back and one craves a rigid routine, they may also bicker constantly because they are simply wired differently, making it hard for them to connect.

Fortunately there are things parents and caregivers can do to help keep the peace among siblings.

These include:

Allowing them their own space. Siblings spend most of their time together, and often it is not by choice. Allowing each child to have their own space and to play independently can help defuse feelings of resentment. While siblings should of course learn to play nicely together, allowing children to play alone at times gives them permission to take a much needed break from a sibling when needed. When a child says he wants to play alone, insisting other children allow him to do so provides an opportunity to teach about respect.

Allowing them their own things. While most of the toys in your home will be available for any and all children to use, each child should have a few cherished toys that they aren’t required to share. When children have their own things they are forced to take responsibility and ownership of them. Having a few toys that are share-free can help children to feel like individuals, which is important for their self-esteem.

Laying the ground rules.When it comes to acceptable and unacceptable treatment of siblings, the rules should be clear and few. Your rules may read something like this: “In our home we are kind to our siblings. We don’t hurt our siblings with our hands or our words.”  Make a simple sign and hang it on the fridge so everyone is reminded of the rules.

Staying out of it. At all costs, parents must avoid taking sides. Trying to assign blame or figure out who did what only makes the situation worse. When safety isn’t an issue, stay out of it for as long as possible to give the children a chance to work it out on their own. If you do need to intervene, instead of trying to referee, insist that both children stop doing whatever they’re doing wrong.

Teaching them to talk it out.For a child, learning to communicate their feelings with words, rather than fists, doesn’t always come naturally. Get out a paper towel tube and give it to one child at a time. Encourage them to use “I and when” statements to communicate their feelings with words rather than fists. “I feel hurt when you won’t let me play trucks with you.” While you may have to model and coach them through their dialogue at first, teaching them to talk it out is a life lesson that’s worth the time invested in instruction.

Insist they kiss and make up. When the children fight, encourage the instigator to apologize and say something nice to his sibling. When you do this, it forces the child to consider something nice about his sibling and allows the child who was hurt to hear something nice about himself. Teaching children to never go to bed angry is another life lesson worth teaching.

Appreciate each child. While it can be tempting to compare siblings, don’t. Appreciate each child for the unique being she is. If one child loves dance and the other baseball, encourage them to each pursue their own interests and passions. Don’t expect all siblings, even twins, to be cut from the same mold. As each child is unique, so is each sibling.

Spend time alone with each child. Carving out one-on-one time for each child every day can significantly reduce sibling rivalry. Each child wants to know that they are special to you and valuable enough to have your undivided attention. Whether it be giving each child a bath, reading a book to each child before bed or going for a short walk with each child after dinner, spending time with each child individually is vital to helping siblings to get along.

Foster a friendship. Your children are siblings by blood, friends by choice. Encourage your children to become friends. Provide opportunities for them to help and support each other. From attending school events in support of each other, to getting a diaper for a baby sibling, adopting an “I am here to help and support you” attitude in your children will foster lasting friendships for life.

Praise good behavior. When you see your children treating each other kindly and with respect, call them out on it. “I saw how you shared your last piece of candy with your brother. That was so kind and something a good friend would do. I am so proud you made the choice to share.”  When you call attention to desirable behavior, you naturally reinforce it.

While almost all siblings will bicker and argue from time to time, with a little planning and support from parents and caregivers, the overall relationships between siblings can be peaceful.

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10 Ways to Get Your Teens to Talk to You

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

During your children’s teenage years you’ll likely encounter a period of time when it seems like you have nothing in common with each other and carrying on conversations is akin to climbing Mt. Everest. This is heavily influenced by the fact that teenagers and the adults who care for them are very different creatures and are at very different points in their lives.  Understanding those differences will help open the lines of communication between you and the teen in your life.

Check out these ideas for ways to get teens talking:

  1. Create a topic jar.  A topic jar is a jar that you fill with different pieces of paper containing conversation topics.  Each night at dinner a different person gets to choose a slip of paper from the jar and read it aloud.  The reader gets to start the conversation.  For example, the slip of paper could say, “Tell about something that surprised you today”. 
  2. Ask open-ended questions.  By asking questions that cannot be answered with only a yes or no, you are opening the door for your teenager to say more than a couple of words in reply to you.  Try to avoid grilling her and stay away from asking questions like, “How was your day?”  Her answer will most likely be a one word answer to these type of questions.  Instead, say something like, “Tell me about your day.”
  3. Talk about topics she likes.  Often teens feel like they are misunderstood by their parents.  Instead of trying to get her involved in whatever you want to talk about, try talking about something that you know she likes.  If she is an avid soccer player then ask her if she heard about the latest soccer match between Spain and Italy.  She will probably be stunned that you even know that Spain and Italy recently had a soccer match and might actually want to talk about it.  Once the door is open she may continue to talk about other things that are on her mind.
  4. Schedule some one on one time with her.  Take her out to her favorite restaurant with just the two of you.  If that is too expensive, just go for dessert and linger over coffee.  Do something that she enjoys, like going to a local soccer match.  Sharing these moments with her will give her the opportunity to talk to you while you are both relaxed and alone.
  5. Listen more than you speak.  Every minute of your time together with her doesn’t have to be filled with idle chit chat.  If you are trying to get someone to talk, leaving some silence will give them the opportunity to fill that silence with conversation. 
  6. Be patient with your teen.  If she is going through a rough time with her boyfriend or her other friends at school it may be difficult for her to talk about.  Give her opportunities to broach the subject with you, but don’t try to force her to talk to you.  That will only result in her becoming more stubborn and closed off.
  7. Put yourself in her shoes.  Teenagers think that their parents and caregivers don’t understand them.  Try to resist saying things like, “I understand what you are going through because I was a teenager once too you know”.  Every generation has their own obstacles to overcome, and you can’t know what she is going through until she tells you.  Really try to imagine how you would feel if you were in her shoes going through what she is going through.    
  8. Don’t try to fix her.  Parents and caregivers often try to fix a situation before they even understand it.  Everyone is busy, but make time to hear her out.  Don’t jump in and offer advice until it’s asked for.  The only thing you should be doing while she is talking is nodding and saying the occasional, “hmm” or “I see” to indicate you are actively listening. This part is very difficult, but she needs to feel heard.  Imagine how it would feel if you were sharing one of your problems and the person kept interrupting you to offer advice.  Would you enjoy that? 
  9. Try to be her soft place to fall, not a road block.  Teenagers are faced with a lot of peer pressure.  Amazingly enough, teens will come to the right decision most of the time if given the chance.  Comfort her if she’s had a fight with a friend or if she breaks up with her boyfriend, but don’t condemn the boyfriend or friend.  Anything negative that you say now will come back to haunt you when she gets back together with her boyfriend or the next time that her friend comes over to spend the night.
  10. Only offer your opinion when she asks for it.  If you are lucky enough to get your teen talking, don’t interrupt with your opinions.  Telling her what you would do isn’t going to help because she will remind you that you and she are nothing alike.  Teens are trying to break away and prove their individuality.  If she asks for your advice, start by asking her what she has considered so far.  This will give you an idea of where her head is and you can act accordingly.  Avoid lectures at all costs.

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