Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Benefits of Making Mistakes in Parenting

Today, I want to share with you the benefits of making mistakes. Many times, as mothers, we have every intention of doing a great job for our families. We read the best books to learn everything from how to get our children to sleep through the night to what the most important study habits of school aged children are most successful. In addition, we plan healthy and nutritious meals to ensure our children's physical success.

Eventually, in motherhood, we fall. We make a mistake and forget something relevant or significant. How do you handle your mistakes? Are you your own worst critic, or do you have hecklers?

Making a mistake provides us with a new perspective and a set of information from a completely different vantage point. It is only when we pack the wrong items in our child's lunch that we come to know what the other possibilities are. Many times we continue to do things in the same old way, and we never have the benefit of seeing different outcomes. We can use our mistakes as learning opportunities to either get more information, to change unnecessary pressure from fix routines, or simply to laugh.

Secondly, everyone makes mistakes. Erase your need for perfection and replace it with understanding. Understand that you are human, and that you are doing your best as a mom. Maybe you did put the baby's clothing on backward. This is insignificant in the big context of life. Maybe you missed the school play because you forgot to write it on your calendar. This provides you with any opportunity to discuss how moms--like kids--make errors, and when they do, they have to be honest and courageous about what happened.

Thirdly, surround yourself with people who affirm and support you as you grow in this stage of your life. Sometimes we feel the need to show others that we are really good at this life as mom. Remember, that you have to do your best... not impress. Moms often ask me simple strategies to address others who question their parenting. I recommend the following steps to relieve this stress:

* 1. Establish some boundaries. Remember, we teach others how to treat us.

* 2. Ask clearly but politely that neighbors, in-laws, parents and friends who criticize and complain about your parenting style or approach give you some space. You might say, "What you said to me hurt my feelings just now. I am learning and doing my best. You have to give me some room here."

* 3. Trust yourself. Know that your best is good enough.

Remember, no one is perfect and that you don't need to be perfect to be a terrific mom. Being a good mom requires love, commitment and nurturing. If your parenting contains any combination of those adjectives then your mistakes are minor and your care is major.

Live fully,

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Mia Redrick
Parenting expert Mia Redrick is an author, lecturer, radio personality, personal coach and mother of three young children. She is a leader in the push for the self-care of mothers, and shares her wisdom on how to raise children without sacrificing personal needs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

50/50 parenting 'tearing kids apart'

For many involved, particularly fathers, so-called '50/50' parenting arrangements have been a great success.

But there is growing concern amongst experts that the system is proving disastrous for some families, with the children paying the price.

When relationships break down, and at the latest official count at least one third of Australian marriages will, often the source of greatest conflict is who gets the children.

Perhaps the biggest revolution in family law since the act was first drafted has been the recent introduction of the concept of equal shared parental responsibility.

It has led to a sharp rise in 50/50 care arrangements where children spend half their time with each parent, usually on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

It was after concerted lobbying by fathers' groups that the Howard government changed the law in 2006 to make equal-shared care the first preference in most custody cases.

It meant a judge had to reject the 50/50 option before looking at any other. Since then there has been a dramatic rise in the number of children in these arrangements.

Child psychologist Jennifer McIntosh was studying 260 families who were fighting over custody when she stumbled across a distinct group of children in real distress.

All of them were in equal-care arrangements. She argues that rather than being shared, these children are being torn apart by their parents.

"I think the spirit of the new legislation is right, but the devil's in the detail and what it's inadvertently done, I think, is fanned the flames of conflict," Dr McIntosh said.

"They loathe and detest each other and that spills over on to the child. The child knows full well that 'my parents aren't friends, in fact they hate each other'."

Interests of the child

Diana Bryant is Chief Justice of Australia's most controversial court, the Family Court. She say a child's best interests should always come first.

"It concerns me if decisions are being made that are placing children under too much pressure, of course," she said.

"We do have to be very cautious about forcing children into arrangements which might be seen to be ideologically appropriate but really don't suit those children."

The 7.30 Report spoke to parents in shared-care arrangements, and mother-of-two Joe Snibson says the situation is a "disaster".

She says every hour is accounted for in a rigid arrangement that equally divides her children's time and their loyalties.

"They see their parents in conflict all the time and that's what's happened with the shared care," she said.

"(They think) I'm constantly in a situation where I have to be in contact with someone that I really don't want to be in contact with."

Dr McIntosh's study found those who go to court are nearly five times more likely to end up with equal care. Disturbingly 28 per cent of their children are suffering acute emotional distress.

"High acrimony, high conflict and low maturity, this is the toxic mix," she said.

But fathers' groups, who have been generally supportive of shared-care arrangements, are dismissive of this argument.

Fathers' advocate Barry Williams has been campaigning for shared care since 1980 and says Dr McIntosh's study is "just a lot of rot".

Ideal case

"They've looked at all cases in conflict when you read it (the study). They haven't looked at the cases that are genuinely good cases where it's working," he said.

Fourteen-year-old Steven Lehozcky and his 16-year-old brother Paul split their time equally between their divorced parents, and their situation is an example of one of the good cases Mr Williams refers to.

The boys say they are happy sharing time with both of their parents.

"It's a good arrangement, I like it," Steven said.

"The upside would be you get even time with your mum and dad so you get to spend good time with them but the downside is just having to pack and unpack all the time, it's just annoying."

And their parents, John Lehozcky and Julie Clark, say the key has been their common desire to do the right thing by their children.

"Loving your children, it just boils down to that, loving your children, you've got to love your children more than you hate or dislike your ex or whatever your situation is," Mr Lehozcky said.

"You've always got to put them in front, put them first, think of them first."

Ms Clark agrees.

"If only one of us had not been prepared to play the game and just work with it and go with it, I shudder to think of what the consequences could have been," she said.

Posted in ABC News

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Effective Parenting Lessons: How to Stop Yelling at Your Children

Parents are the models of behavior that children emulate. A child who is continuously yelled at may grow up to believe that this is an appropriate style of communicating.

1. Be Clear With Your Directions. After asking your child to pick up his/her clothes several times, they're still on the floor. Children under 7 may need help getting into the habit of doing a task on a regular basis. Make sure a child is capable of doing the task by him/herself. Children may not admit that they did not understand instructions. When dealing with teens, use the word "I" instead of "You." For example, say, "I notice that you did not pick up your shirt," as opposed to, "You keep leaving your shirt on the floor." Avoid words such as "always, never, all the time."

2. Keep Your Anger in Check. Even though we hate to admit it, the problem sometimes is our own. Your 5-year-old doesn't understand that you had a bad day at work. Give yourself a few minutes before responding. Ask yourself if the situation is important enough to address or to let go. If you need time to yourself, explain to your child that you are not in a good mood and that you will speak to him/her when you are feeling better. If you have family support, have someone take the kids while you sort through your emotions.

3. Determine Who's Problem It Is. Yelling at a child for something that is affecting you will not get your problem resolved. Teens may not know that you have a headache when they play their music loudly. Children need parents to describe what they are feeling in order for them to understand. If you yell at your child because he/she is showing no appreciation for a gift you have given to him/her, your child will not understand that you are feeling unappreciated or rejected by his/her reaction. Be aware of how you interpret your child's behavior or reaction.

4. Meet Your Own Basic Needs. If you are addressing your child when you are tired or hungry, then your needs aren't being met, which is contributing to your frustration. Unless a situation needs immediate attention, first eat or rest before speaking to your child.

5. Respond, Don't React. Yelling at a child who is trying to annoy you gives the child the upper hand by getting a reaction out of you. Instead, get your child's attention, look at him/her in the eyes and say what you have to say. Constantly reacting to behavior contributes to misbehavior for the sake of getting attention. Use fewer words if you have to. Instead of saying "I am so sick and tired of reminding you to put away your book bag!" say "Book bag. Closet. Now." Give your child nonverbal signals to get your point across.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Obscure parenting tips for the creative and the desperate

As the parents of six children, Derek and I are always in the market for creative parenting ideas. Today I will share a few things we have learned along the way.

If you have a metal door, you have a great spot to use one of the many Upwards or honor student magnets cluttering up the clutter drawer. (Or use your “My child beat up your honor student” magnet, if that’s all you have). Stick it on the door as a holder for whatever you need on the way out next morning – an SAT admission ticket, that field trip permission slip that was due yesterday, or even a note to buy toilet paper.

Circle spider bites with a permanent marker. That way you can tell whether they are growing or shrinking. (Hat tip to Pastor Mendy McNulty for this one.)

Don’t ask a child to explain why he did something, unless you honestly do not know. A person cannot indict himself, so asking this question only encourages him to assign himself new motivations after the fact. Parents call this “making excuses,” but to a child it is a matter of protecting his self-esteem.

When children ask “Why?” always tell them why. Make the explanation thorough. Serious inquiries deserve a thorough answer. Children with other motives for asking “Why?” get bored with the lengthy response and often give up the mantra.

For teens and pre-teens, I prefer to blame unpopular parenting decisions on John Tesh. My children may be unique in their fascination with Tesh’s “Intelligence for Your Life” radio program, but I find they are reluctant to argue with the man. It works like this: “Look, sweetie, I know that you personally would never text-message under the covers after bedtime. But John Tesh says everybody sleeps better if the cell phones charge on the kitchen counter every night – no exceptions.” This works for most parent-teen conflicts, and you need not listen to all the shows to use it. If it makes sense, John Tesh probably did say it, some time or other.

Traveling with young children is filled with surprises, and not always the happy kind. Since leaving behind the diaper bag a few times, we’ve learned to keep a family emergency kit in every car. Hopefully you already have jumper cables, a jack, and other tools, but this kit is for the people in the car. It should contain everything you would need if for some reason your family were trapped in the car. Ours includes wet wipes, diapers, clean socks, toilet paper, bandages, bottled water, crayons, coloring books and individually wrapped crackers.

The best road trip entertainment we have found is a classic Carpenter’s CD. The mellow tunes calm nerves and make life more pleasant. My five-year-old is especially fond of “Sing a Song,” which she calls “La la la la.” She will often request it. When she is grumpy, she asks us not to play it. “I’m not going to start singing,” she says, crossing her arms, “You can’t make me la la la la.” We shrug and promise that no one will make her sing. And then we hear Christianna’s thin little voice join in, and we all smile.

When all else fails, moo. It was only a hunch, or perhaps an instinct. One day as we were trying to get home, a certain irate toddler was screaming bloody murder because she did not care to sit in the car seat. I had tried all the normal distractions – talking, singing, stopping the car to take her for a walk, bribery, threats, cutting her out of the will, etc. At last, in desperation, I uttered a low-pitched moo. My teenage driver shot me a sideways glance and then wisely joined the mooing. Soon the entire car was filled with the sounds of calm, happy cattle. Finally the toddler stopped her high-pitched screams to utter “Mooooooo.”

The most important advice I would give to a new parent is this: Never trust anyone who is selling something. Many of the implements and gadgets touted to make parenting easier just create more parenting jobs. Plastic baby bathtubs are a great example. As a new parent, I thought that little over-the-sink tub was an essential parenting item. I’ve since realized a baby bathtub is just another thing to clean and store. It is much easier to take your baby into the bath with you whenever you wash up. It makes a nice, relaxing activity and there’s no wet baby furniture to clean up afterward.

Remember that baby bottle manufacturers are also selling something. Don’t believe the makers of alien-shaped bottle nipples labeled “more like mom.” No human female has appendages shaped like that. Baby bottles and artificial nipples contain chemicals that should never be ingested by an adult, much less a growing infant. They can also confuse young babies and interfere with their latch. In the rare case that an infant needs something other than breast milk, finger-feeding or spoon-feeding is typically safer than using a bottle.

The maker of baby formula who touts a product as “more like breast milk” is not trustworthy, either. These companies are selling something. When they distribute pamphlets claiming to provide breastfeeding tips, do not be fooled into believing they are actually advertising for their competition. These companies are financially dependent on breastfeeding problems and failures. They sell artificial milk, and they do so despite the knowledge that their product imparts innumerable health risks to your baby. Toss their tips and trust the breastfeeding experts at La Leche League for infant feeding advice.

Of course, some commercial offerings can be a blessing. A simple, one-piece potty chair is helpful for young children. Opt for a model that puts the child in a near squatting position, like the Baby Bjorn. Place the potty in a convenient location, explain its presence, and afterward try not to bring up the subject often. As many veteran moms and dads have discovered, the idea of “training” a toddler to use the potty is frustrating, self-defeating and useless. For most children, “toilet training” is no more logical than setting up language lessons to teach a normal infant how to talk. It makes no more sense than pushing a baby to walk, ready-or-not, simply because he has hit the one-year milestone. With a lot of leeway and very little prodding, most children will work it out before they go to kindergarten.

Indeed, most skills and character traits are learned from modeling, not molding. That’s why parents who smoke have little success warning their children never to start. Children do need boundaries and consequences, but neither can substitute for the time a parent spends simply being a decent, responsible human being in front of the children.

Dr. Gary Smalley says that children spell love T-I-M-E. These days we try to assuage our guilt by focusing on “quality rather than quantity.” It’s great when parents schedule the time to take a child to the park, or go on a parent-child date just to talk about life. However, few children open up on demand. Open, honest communication often happens when we are not expecting or monitoring it. It happens in the car, on the way to the mailbox, or while the pasta is boiling.

Parents have a tough job because our children are always changing. We learn along with them, and what we learn with one child may not work for the next child. I wish I knew how to teach a child to blow her nose. If anyone knows the answer to this one, please send me a hint before the next allergen comes into bloom.

Jeannie Babb Taylor may be contacted at, or you can leave a public comment on her blog at

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Jeannie Babb Taylor

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Parenting and sex: keeping the magic alive

I believe it wasn't long after I learned how babies are made that the most disgusting thought occurred to me: My parents probably had sex at least once. And "once" was just assuming that my sister was planted in our house by some deity as a Job-like trial for me. In that moment, the fantasies I had -- that I was in fact the child of royalty, adopted by commoners to protect my identity until the day I could be reunited with my "real" parents and assume the throne -- became infinitely more appealing. Because maybe that meant the people who were raising me did not have sex after all, and I'd deal with the issue of my royal parents doing the nasty when the time came.

Now that I'm a parent myself, I know the truth is so much grosser than I imagined as a child. Parents do have sex, and sometimes even on a semi-regular basis. (Like on Wednesdays. You should totally watch this, by the way.) The problem, of course, is that kids make it that much harder to actually find the time and privacy to have a little intimacy. Here's three sex-blocking scenarios, and a possible solution for each. Consider this my public service for the week.

1. Co-sleeping. We ended up unintentionally co-sleeping with our kid, mostly because it was just easier. But of course, having a kid in the bed makes nighttime sex impossible. I have read advice like, "Oh, we just lay down with junior and then get up and go into the other room to get it on." I don't really know who these people are that can lie down with their heads on a nice, soft pillow and close their eyes and then actually get up for anything less than morning or a fire. (And I mean a literal fire. The call of burning love doesn't cut it.)

Needless to say, this is not a solution I endorse. However, I'll admit that the desire for privacy did play a big part in my desire to get the kid into her own bed, though I don't really mind the snuggly sleepy family thing. So here's our fix: We made a rule that she had to fall asleep in her own bed. Then if she woke up in the night she could come into our room, or if she wanted she could request to be brought into our bed after she fell asleep. This has worked out really well for us, but I think it's important to enforce the rule on a regular basis for it to work, not just on nights when love is a'calling.

2. Sex when the kids are around. When the little one was younger and needed regular supervision, daytime hummada hummada was only possible during naps. And even now, when she's playing alone, it's a little touch-and-go (har har) to try and work some magic with the fear of being interrupted in a way that would be traumatic for all parties. My answer? The electronic babysitter. This is why I'll never kill my television. Pull up an episode of "Peep" and it's off to the other room. (When I was discussing this story idea with someone, they said, "Oh, like you put on 'Ratatouille' and then slip away?" Let's face it: We are parents. We are tired. We don't need a two hour movie. One show is pretty much sufficient for the whole deal, clean-up and all. That's why I call it the TV quickie.)
Barry says: When the kids are gone, you must get it on.

3. The overnight. Having the kids go to someone else's house and spend the night ought to be a golden opportunity. However, sometimes this one falls into the date night trap: When it happens so rarely, there's a certain amount of pressure placed on the whole thing, and pressure can be a mood-killer. Plus this is everyone's big chance to get more than six hours of unbroken sleep! My answer to this? Too bad. Just do it anyway. Like birthdays and anniversaries, there are certain times when everyone has a right to expect some good attention and a little quality uhh-huh time. Buy some Barry White or download some porn or whatever you have to do and just have at it. Then arrange your schedule so you can sleep in. But the sex is a necessity, like eating and breathing and shopping for cute shoes.

Oh, and one final note: We have not tried this, but some people get a lock for the bedroom door. Our kid doesn't even know what the word 'quiet' means, so we don't really have to worry about being surprised, but if you have one of those more subdued little angels, it might be worth it. Just make sure you can pick the lock from the outside so you don't have to call the fire department when your child imprisons himself in your room.

You should share your own tips, but if any of them involve actual act logistics or the word "feather" or "harness," you can and should totally keep that to yourself.

KELLY MILLS is a writer, editor, blogger, and sucka for her daughter's theatrics. She has a fitness blog, Fitness Fixation, and also blogs about the world of parenting for at Strollerderby and Droolicious.

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Kelly Mills