I have a confession to make… before we had a child, my husband and I were TERRIBLE at eating dinner at the table. We were perfectly content with eating on the couch with the television on in the background. I’m not going to judge people who do that (just as I don’t want others judging me for doing it!), but in my opinion, we were probably missing out on a great opportunity to connect with each other and have meaningful conversations.
Our kiddo can’t talk to us yet, but we want to get in the habit of eating at the table and spending quality time together, so… slowly, but surely, we are trying to be better at it. It’s not always possible… I’m at the office two nights a week. I know a lot of families who have all kinds of extracurricular activities that prevent them from eating dinner as a family. Life can sometimes get in the way, but I am a fan of eating dinner at the table, without electronics, when we can. So the first step is to get all your family members to the dinner table (without phones or background tv/radio).
The second step is to talk. I think every caregiver has, at one time or another, asked “did you have a good day?” and gotten a one-word reply. Or “how was your day?” and gotten the one-word answer, “good.” If you want more elaborative answers, you might have to get creative with your questions. Instead of “how was your day,” try “what was the best part about your day?” Or “what happened today that made you feel happy?”
*I like the Two Positives and a Negative discussion. Every family member gets to talk about two positive things from their day and one negative thing from their day. Sometimes talking about the negative thing can be difficult, but it’s important for kiddos to be able to talk about things they didn’t like about their day and get some empathy or insight from their parents about it.*
For some other ideas on questions to ask, Families Alive has a wonderful list of 101 open-ended questions to get you started! Some of them are going to be really difficult for smaller children to answer, but you can use these to think of your own (age-appropriate) questions.
“1) If you could be famous for one thing, what would it be and why?
2) If you could meet any US president, which one would you choose and why?
3) Name one time when someone has shown you a lot of love.
4) If you could choose one award to win (real or made-up), what would you pick and why?
5) If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
6) What does your dream home look like?
7) Tell me about a time when you had to be really brave.
8) If you could only do one thing for a whole day, what would you pick?
9) Where is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
10) What is your favorite thing to do when you’re by yourself?
11) When you are a parent, what traditions from our family would you like to carry on? What things would you change?
12) If you had to go out and get a job today, where would you want to work and why?
13) What is one of your earliest memories?
14) If you could fix just one problem in the world, what would you pick?
15) What is your favorite worship song? Why is it important to you?
16) What is one goal you have for this year? What’s a step you can take today to help you reach that goal?
17) What is one way you saw God working today?
18) What country would you love to visit? Why?
19) What’s the best surprise you ever received?
20) If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?
21) What’s something you would love to do on a rainy afternoon?
22) If we could do one thing as a family on Thanksgiving that we’ve never done, what would it be?
23) How can we pray for you today?
24) If you could only keep 3 items from your room, which ones would you pick?
25) If you could time travel, where and when would you go first? Why?
26) What is your favorite board game and why?
27) Is there someone in your life who you are struggling with? How can you show them the love of Jesus?
28) What was the best part of your day? How about the worst?
29) If you could invent any holiday, what would you call it and how would it be celebrated?
30) Who is one person you would love to get to know better?
31) If you had endless money and supplies, what invention would you make and why?
32) What is something you feel like you are talented at? How can you use that for God’s glory?
33) What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned in school this year?
34) What one thing would you really like to do as a family?
35) If you could go on a road trip to anywhere, where would you go?
36) If you could eat dinner with 3 people, living or dead, who would you pick?
37) Who makes you laugh more than anyone else?
38) What is your favorite thing to do with your friends?
39) If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you pick?
40) Which person would you most like to visit right now? Why?
41) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? How about 10? 50?
42) What is your favorite family tradition? How can we make it even better/more meaningful?
43) Which of the fruits of the Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23) do you need to work on? How can you do that today?
44) What do you feel like children understand better than adults?
45) What is your favorite movie or TV show and why?
46) How many children would you like to have? Why?
47) What is a characteristic you really admire about someone in this family? (Make sure everyone gets praised!)
48) If you could create any ice cream flavor, what would it be?
49) What is your favorite Bible story and why?
50) What is your most vivid childhood memory? Why do you think you remember it so well?
51) What is your favorite season and why?
52) If you could decorate your room any way you want, how would you do it?
53) What is the biggest struggle in your life right now? How can we be praying for you?
54) What is your idea of the perfect day?
55) If you could go back in time and spend a day with any Bible character, who would you pick and why?
56) If you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
57) What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
58) If you could have a weird, unusual pet, what would you choose?
59) What are the qualities that make a good friend?
60) What is your favorite chore? What is your least favorite chore?
61) Tell us something that you’re really good at.
62) Tell us something that you wish you were really good at.
63) When you grow up, where would you like to live?
64) What would you do if you won the lottery?
65) Who is your favorite adult (teacher, coach, babysitter)?
66) What would you do if you found a big bag of cash at the park?
67) Which distant family member do you wish could come visit us today?
68) What is your biggest fear?
69) If I gave you $10 to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
70) Share your favorite joke with us.
71) What is your favorite holiday and why?
72) Which Bible character would you like to meet?
73) What’s one decision you’ve made that you wish you could change?
74) What do you think heaven is like?
75) Are you more of a leader or a follower?
76) If you could talk to everyone in the entire world for 5 minutes, what would you want to say?
77) What are some things you would like to accomplish before you die?
78) What is something that annoys you or makes you angry?
79) What do you think is your best quality? What about biggest weakness?
80) If you had to write a book about anything, what would you pick?
81) If you had to lose one of your five senses, which would you choose and why?
82) If you could design a theme park, what would it be like?
83) Would you rather be a movie star, a pro athlete, or the leader of a country?
84) What do you think has been the best day of your life so far?
85) If you could be a character from any book, movie, or TV show, who would you choose and why?
86) What would you do if you knew your best friend or sibling was stealing?
87) Have you ever stuck up for someone who was getting picked on? If not, what will you do next time it happens?
88) What is one meal you hope we don’t serve again? What food do you wish we ate more often?
89) When you are sad or angry, what do you do to deal with that? How can we help?
90) Which of our family rules do you agree with? Are there any that you think are unfair?
91) Can you think of good ways to tell your friends about Jesus?
92) Is it ever ok to tell a lie? Can you think of an example?
93) Who is your best friend? What do you like about them? Is there anything you don’t?
94) What is one thing you have a strong commitment to never do?
95) If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future first?
96) Tell me about your most embarrassing moment.
97) If you were in a band or managed a sports team, what would you call it?
98) Tell me about a time when you did the right thing and it was hard.
99) What is one of your bad habits?
100) What are some important qualities your future spouse needs to have?
101) When do you feel loved the most?”
Endnote: some of these are great to ask your spouse, even if the children aren’t around.
Eight or nine years ago, in college, I researched the benefits of teaching babies how to use sign language (sometimes referred to as symbolic gesturing). The research was overwhelming; not only does it help babies communicate before verbal language develops, but it also AIDS in verbal language development. From what I’ve seen, the practice has only grown in popularity and research continues to support teaching babies how to sign.
A great resource about baby signs can be found at the website Baby Sign Language. You can find several tools to help you get started. Some of the benefits of baby signs listed on their website include:
- Less frustration due to inability to communicate simple needs
- Parent/child are more in tune/have a closer bond
- Helps babies develop language and reasoning skills
- Earlier reading/larger vocabulary
We just began using signs with my almost-7-month-old about a week ago. Rather than use a website, we referenced some books that have pictures of the gestures. One of the books, Baby Signs: A Baby-Sized Introduction to Speaking with Sign Language, by Joy Allen, can be found on Amazon, here. We started by looking through the book, practicing, the signs, and picking out a few that we thought we would use fairly often. We decided to start with signs for “drink,” “eat,” “mom,” and “dad.” We are trying to be consistent with those four, but I’ve also been signing “more,” “help,” and “bath” when appropriate. It takes a lot of patience just to get our daughter to sit still and look at us long enough to sign to her, but we are trying to demonstrate those 4 signs as often as we can.
Just like with hearing the words we say, she will begin making an association between the sign for “eat” and being fed. Eventually, she’ll put it together and understand that the sign for “eat” means she gets to eat! Then she’ll be able to sign it to us when she wants to eat, and this will likely occur before she is developmentally able to verbally say “eat.”
Reminder: that this is supposed to be fun and enjoyable, so don’t get caught up in stressing about making your baby learn the sign as soon as possible. It’ll take some time, so make it fun. 🙂
No parent wants it to happen to their child, but bullying is everywhere (even adults do it!), so there’s a good chance that your kiddo will experience bullying at some point in their lives.
If/When your child tells you they’ve been bullied:
- Try your best to stay calm (at least when in front of your kiddo). If you need to call someone later and vent, yell, curse like a sailor, etc., then go for it, but your child needs a calm adult to talk to about this. Remember that you are always modeling for them!
- Empathize with your child; validate their feelings and validate that what the “bully” is doing is not Ok. When your kiddo comes to you and shares they’re being bullied, it’s really easy to jump into “MAMA BEAR” mode and declare war against the bully, his/her parents, and the school. You can do that (see step 4!), BUT before you do, make sure you provide the emotional support that your child needs. Talk to them about what the bully did, how it made them feel. Tell them that you’re sorry it happened and you wish you could make the hurt go away. Tell them that you are going to do everything within your power to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Make sure your kiddo feels heard!
- Talk to your kiddo about what they should do IF the bullying happens again. Have them identify 3-4 safe adults they can immediately seek help from. If age appropriate, talk to them about how bullies typically do what they do because they enjoy the reaction from others; therefore, teaching your kiddo to ignore as best they can might make it “boring” for the other kid, who will then stop.
- Talk to the necessary adults to attempt to get the bullying to stop. This might be teachers, principal, guidance counselor, or the “bully” kiddo’s parents.
STOMP Out Bullying has an amazing step-by-step guide for how to work with the school:
- “Find out pertinent and detailed information about what the bullies are doing, dates, times, places, actions, etc. Document everything.
- Find out any threats that have been made toward your child, and if it pertains to outside of school; contact the police.
- Contact the school during hours of operation and make an appointment with the principal for a face to face meeting.
- Outline the details, not in an angry rant, but as if you were telling a friend what occurred.
- Obtain a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy to determine if the bully violated a school policy.
- When you meet with the school principal, tell your child’s story and ask for help.
- Relate the facts and leave your emotions out of it. If you feel the bully has violated the school’s anti-bullying policy, bring this up calmly into the conversation.
- Ask what you can do together to stop the bullying. Write down everything he said and agreed to do, because you are going to hold him accountable for it.
- Send a thank-you letter to the principal, recapping what he or she said and agreed to do along with our Bullying Prevention Bill Of Rights For Parents and Students which you can copy and paste onto your own letterhead. This will put the principal on notice and on the alert that you are watching for a resolution to the problem.
- Follow up with your child to see if the bullying stops, and follow up with the principal.
- If the harassment continues, document it and file a Notice of Harassment. You may need to move up the chain of command, contacting the superintendent of schools, board of education, or possibly even state and federal authorities.
- If your child has been threatened contact law enforcement immediately.
- If your child has been cyberbullied, check the school’s anti-bullying policy as well as your state anti-bullying legislation to see if cyberbulling is covered under the aegis of the school. If it is, report that to the school as well. Absolutely report it to the police, as well as the ISP provider, the social media web site, wherever it is taking place.
- If the bullying does not stop you should file charges with the school board and law enforcement if appropriate.”
This post is different from what I usually blog. Instead of being about kiddos, this one pertains more to adults. It’s something that’s been on my heart lately, so here goes:
Being a parent can be so hard. There are so many decisions to make and a lot of us find ourselves second guessing and wondering if we’re doing the right thing. I haven’t been a mom for very long, but GOOD GRIEF, I’ve learned quickly that everyone loves to judge mothers… even other mothers! I’m not sure why that is, but it appears to be worse on social media – I suspect this is because people feel as if they can say whatever they want because it’s through a computer/phone and not in person. Whatever the reason, it’s really disheartening. We’re human; we’re all fallible; everyone (yes, EVERYONE) has made mistakes. Instead of constantly belittling and judging each other, we should be encouraging, helping, and building each other up.
So I’ve created a list of 6 questions to ask yourself before jumping in with comments that are judgmental or negative at all:
- DO I KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS PERSON’S INDIVIDUAL SITUATION? The answer is almost always going to be no. And unless the answer is yes, don’t judge them! Even if you know some details or *think* you know some details, you may not know everything.
- HAVE I BEEN IN THIS PERSON’S SHOES? Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is, if you haven’t been in the exact situation, you have no right trying to tell someone they’re handling it wrong… and if you ask yourself the other questions on this list, you probably don’t have the right to do so even if your answer to this question is yes.
- DID THIS PERSON ASK FOR MY ADVICE OR ASK FOR HELP? If not, then keep your comments to yourself. You can ask if the person wants help – with a simple “Is there anything I can do to help you out right now?” If they say “no,” respect it.
- IF I WAS IN THIS PERSON’S SITUATION, WHAT WOULD I WANT OTHERS TO SAY TO ME? On social media, I see comments like “the parents should’ve…” or “why wasn’t the mom…?” all the time in response to heartbreaking stories about children who have passed away. Set aside your “that would NEVER happen to me because…” and imagine you were the parent of that child who passed away. Would you want people placing blame on you and questioning why you didn’t do something different? My guess is you’d want some support, encouragement, and love. Keep in mind the whole “do unto others” principle.
- IS WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY HELPFUL? Are you actually trying to be helpful? Or are you trying to get attention? Or are you trying to prove a point? Or toot your own horn?
- This one applies especially to texts/phone calls/emails/comments on social media… IF THIS PERSON WERE STANDING IN FRONT OF ME, WOULD I SAY THIS TO THEIR FACE? The other piece of advice I’ve heard from my grandma is to ask yourself if you’d want what you say or type to be published in a newspaper for everyone to see. Additionally, as caregivers, we have to remember that everything we do is modeling for our kiddos. Keep that in mind when interacting with others – would you want them to talk to others the way you are?
Whether a teacher or parent, you’ve probably found yourself using collective punishment at some point. Collective punishment is when a group or people (kids) are given a consequence for negative behavior, even if not all the kids made the choice to behave poorly.
A few examples:
- A teacher takes away recess for the entire classroom because one table of 5 children didn’t finish their assignment.
- “I will turn this car around!” – mom or dad take away an activity because one of their children is acting up in the back of the car.
- And an ADULT example – the manager takes away the bonus for all salesmen because one of the five didn’t meet their quota.
There are a few reasons not to use collective punishment:
- It can result in lack of motivation to listen for the kids that normally do! If I’m the kid who always loses recess because a classmate acts up, I may start to think, “why even try? I’m going to lose recess anyway.”
- It’s terrible for fostering relationships – can you imagine how disliked that one kid is going to be for losing recess for the entire classroom? The poor kiddo’s self-esteem may plummet and he/she may feel isolated – which would likely lead to further issues.
So what to do instead? Pick an individual punishment, when possible. This can actually be a HUGE advantage. Imagine the entire classroom is given a task and those who do not finish don’t get to go to recess. Two kiddos don’t finish and are sent with another teacher. Instead of making all their classmates miss recess, they have to watch their class go to recess and come back – their classmates are probably still wound up from recess, it’s obvious they had fun, and they’re maybe even talking about all the fun things they did. Think that kid will try harder next time? Absolutely.
Imagine you’re a mom headed to the zoo and one of your three kiddos are acting up. Instead of making everyone miss the zoo, pick an individual consequence for that one kid. Maybe he can stay at grandma’s house instead, maybe there’s another caregiver in the car and the kiddo has to stay in the car for a bit with the other caregiver while the other kiddos go enjoy the zoo. Maybe the other two kiddos will get an ice cream cone with lunch, but the misbehaving one will not. That kiddo will see his siblings getting to do something he/she doesn’t get to… and will probably be motivated next time to have better manners in the car.
Sometimes you have to get creative, and sometimes picking an individual consequence can be inconvenient, but it’s well worth it!