Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Moms' Dirty Little Secrets

Not liking how your child's turning out or regretting what you gave up? Here's why you shouldn't kick yourself
Since my son Zander was born 11 years ago, I've talked to countless moms about the myriad ways kids have altered our lives. Most of the time, we agree, motherhood is pretty wonderful -- yet, truth be told, taking care of kids can get even the best of us down. What the experts don't tell you, and what other moms are sometimes loath to admit, is that there are a few dirty little secrets involved in child rearing. In the interest of full disclosure, I've listed some of the very dirtiest -- and how to come clean with them so that they lose their power.

If you have more than one child, you'll probably have a favorite.

"I'm blown away by how adorable one of my kids is these days," I recently confessed to my friends Jenn and Kate. They smiled -- they're both moms of two -- so I went for broke. "The other one, however, is a total pain," I said. "Everything he does drives me nuts, and I can't wait to get away from him."

From the looks of horror on their faces, you'd think I'd just copped to infanticide. Jenn and Kate swore up and down that they loved their kids equally, and that even if one did happen to be a tiny bit cuter or more endearing once in a while, they'd never let their preferences show. Sure, they remembered how the first kid suddenly seemed gigantic and uncouth when they brought home the newborn sibling, and they even recalled the flashes of protective rage they'd felt when Thing One "accidentally" hugged Thing Two a little too hard, or worse. But this was normal -- all the books said so. Feeling a preference once the helpless-infant stage had passed? That seemed taboo.

Coming clean. Imagine you have two husbands. One sits in his underpants all day, scratching himself and drinking beer in front of the television. The other one brings you flowers, tells you you're beautiful and fascinating, and hangs on your every word. Which one would you want to sleep with?

Okay, it's not a perfect analogy, but you get my point. "I think it's crazy when moms don't admit they have favorites," says Beth Resweber, a mom of four who lives in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. "But it changes. At any given time, one of your kids is going to be stuck in some behavioral rut. My most colicky baby, who cried nonstop and needed tons more attention, now sets his own alarm, gets ready, and does homework more efficiently than anyone else. In the end, it all evens out."

Remember, family dynamics are meant to be plastic, and acknowledging that sometimes you simply mesh better with one kid than another can help you understand and tolerate the times your kids' own allegiances shift. "In any case, feeling fonder of one kid is always temporary," Resweber says. "My love for all of them is bottomless." And the silver lining? Going through a rough patch when you're not in sync with one of them can make the inevitable reunion with that child that much sweeter.

How to Raise a Reader

How to Raise a Reader
Settling into a comfy chair with your child to read a story is one of the best things about being a parent. And if you haven't already made reading a daily habit, you need to start now, since books benefit kids in so many ways. "First of all, reading with your child is a wonderful bonding experience," says Parents advisor Linda Acredolo, PhD, coauthor of Baby Minds. Your kid gets to bask in your undivided attention, which makes storytime truly magical. Reading every single day also helps your child learn to talk, expand her vocabulary, build her imagination, and get prepped for school. Our expert tips will get your child hooked on books for life.

Reading with Babies
You can't start the reading habit too early. At 3 to 6 months, your baby will be more interested in chewing her board books, but by the end of her first year, she'll probably pick out favorites.
What They Learn
When you turn pages with your baby in your arms, she'll associate books with snuggling. "As an infant, she's learning to value books because it means she gets to cuddle with her mom or dad," says Dr. Acredolo. But most important, reading to a young baby ultimately helps her learn to talk. She begins to connect pictures with words. At 9 months, she'll be able to home in on your tone of voice, cadence, and the length of sentences. "Parents help a baby learn language by speaking to her often, with varied vocabulary and about topics she finds interesting," says Parents advisor Kathleen McCartney, PhD, professor of early-childhood development at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Make Reading Fun
• Go for the right touch (and taste!). Babies learn through their senses, so buy cardboard or cloth books that they can put in their mouth.
• Face it. Infants love looking at pictures of faces, especially those of other babies.
• Be silly. Is there a phone in the story? Say, "Ring, ring. Hello? I'm sorry Olivia can't take your call; she's in a meeting."
• Point out things in the real world. When you're taking a walk, talk about stuff you've read about in books. "See the doggie?" This will help her begin to associate the word "dog" with her picture book and the live creature in front of her.

Five Books Every New Mother Should Have

New parents get mounds of "essentials," which mainly amount to junk: teeny blankets, stuffed animals and fancy outfits that will only be worn once.

For new mothers (and the dads) these five books are the new essentials:

Modern Girl's Guide to Motherhood. This frank and cheeky book has advice on feeding a baby with a stuffy nose (turn on the hot water and close the door), getting your sexy back (lose the maternity pants) and what to do with those egg cartons (turn them into paint palettes).

Baby, Make Me Breakfast. This picture board board has clear instructions to help your child be a caring and helpful addition to the family. For wry mamas and papas, Lisa Brown's series includes Baby, Mix Me a Drink.

What to Expect: The Toddler Years. The compendium covers it all -- from dealing with tantrums to introducing "adult" foods.

Good Dad / Bad Dad: Do's and Don'ts from the Trenches. This straight-forward guide to parenting includes instruction on baby-proofing the house and setting up college funds.

How to Potty Train a Monster. There are a gazillion books on how to get the little one using the bathroom, but few books address the real spoke in the wheel: Parents.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What are Parenting?

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the activity of raising a child rather than the biological relationship.

Need and Parenting Task

Physical security – the safety of a child's body and life.
• Provide physical safety: shelter, clothes, nourishment
• To protect a child from dangers; physical care
• To care for a child's health

Physical development – appropriate conditions for a healthy growth of a child
• To provide a child with the means to develop physically
• To train the body of a child, to introduce to exercise
• To develop habits of health

Intellectual security – the conditions in which a child's mind can develop
• Provide an atmosphere of peace and justice and respect to one's dignity
• Provide an environment without fear, threat, and abuse

Intellectual development – providing opportunity to a child to learn
• Reading, writing, calculating etc.
• Support and/or provide school related learning
• Teach social skills and etiquette
• Moral and spiritual development. As well as creating an ethics and value systems with social norms that contribute to the child's beliefs, culture; and customs

Emotional security – to help protect a child's psyche
• Provide a safe loving environment
• Give a child a sense of being loved, being needed, welcomed
• Emotional support, encouragement
• Attachment, caressing, hugging, touch, etc.

Emotional development – developing the child's ability to love, care, help, etc.
• Show empathy and compassion to younger and older, weaker and sicker, etc.
• Caring for others, helping grandparents, etc.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

14 Secrets to Potty-Training Success

When our daughter Katie was nearly 3, my husband and I primed her for potty-training success: We put the potty-related books in regular bedtime rotation, thrilled her with a fashionable array of brand-new big-girl panties, and stocked up on a tantalizing incentive -- M&M's.

Within two months, Katie was peeing in the potty like a pro. But no matter how much we bribed, begged, and flattered her, she refused to give up her Pull-Ups to poop. I tried every tactic I could think of: I upped the ante to a Price Is Right -- worthy prize package, took away the Pull-Ups (resulting in a serious bout of constipation and some nasty post-nap cleanups), and even, I'm ashamed to admit, threatened her with a doctor's visit and shots if she didn't do the deed. After poring over every mom board I could find, I discovered a few new ideas -- but, mainly, lots of other desperate moms.

Since no strategy can possibly fit all our quirky kids, it seems that success depends on finding the solution to your child's particular sticking point. These are the five most common, and the best tricks for getting unstuck:

1. Your kid isn't swayed by chocolate kisses, a cool truck, or any other reward
2. You found dirty undies under the bed
3. Only the potty at home will do
4. She was doing great -- and now she's not
5. He reserves number two for the diaper

The 6 Most Annoying Things Kids Say

Snuggling under her blankets at bedtime, Ella, 3, gazed up at me and announced longingly, "I want a new mommy." Not even four years into my tenure as Mom and I was already being edged out of the job. Even worse, Ella started announcing "I want a new mom" frequently, like whenever I failed to buy her a ring pop at the grocery-store checkout. Some days, it was all I could do not to retort, "Yeah? Well, I want a new kid!"

Developing the knack to verbally push your buttons is just part of your child's linguistic and behavioral development. The challenge is to teach her to be courteous while allowing her to assert herself -- and do it without responding like you're 3 years old. What to say (and what to skip) in response to these gems:


Whatever 18-month-old Weston Congdon has, his 3-year-old brother, Addison, wants, even if it's something that's collected dust in the toy box for the past six months. "What drives me crazy is that usually it's a baby toy, like a teething ring," says their mom, Sarah, of Ames, Iowa. "I think, 'What are you gonna do with it other than take it away from your brother?'" Now Weston, a beginning talker, walks around the house repeating "Mine, mine, mine" ad nauseam. His frustrated mom has been known to retort, "Well, then, the couch is mine and you can't sit on it."

A better way to respond: As tempting as it is to give little ones a dose of their own medicine, it won't help them see the error of their ways, and it may confuse them. Yet keeping your cool in the face of "Mine!" can tax even the most Zen-minded mom.

"Ignoring the behavior is best, but even as a clinical psychologist, I can't," admits Ray Levy, Ph.D., a dad of one and the coauthor of Try and Make Me! "I'd rather have something to say in response that I can depend on." His solution: Toss out a "brain-dead phrase" -- a short-and-sweet sound bite that lets a persistent child know he won't get his way. With a child who insists that everything is his, simply keep repeating, "Sorry" or "It's nice to want things." End of story. Even if the empty phrase doesn't completely shut down the whining, having something -- anything -- to say will keep you from saying something that you shouldn't.

Fun Activities: Keep Your Kids Busy

Wouldn't it be great to make a phone call or pay some bills without a half dozen interruptions? Try these distractions -- with stuff you already have around the house

What to have on hand

Create a special box or drawer filled with the following supplies that your child can use only during your "coworking" times.

Tools: Glue stick, masking tape, markers, kid-safe blunt scissors

Handmade books: Scrap-paper books, quickly stapled together, are a more exciting place for collages, scribbles, and stickers than single pages.

Interesting junk mail: Invitations, toy catalogs, odd-size or colored envelopes, giveaway stickers and mailing labels, paper mailing tubes, checkbook boxes

Precut pictures: From catalogs, junk mail, and duplicates of your photos

Stick 'em up

What you'll need: Pad of sticky notes, crayons
Best for: 1 and up
  • Stick a few rows of notes to a wall or the side of your desk and have your toddler take them off and put them back up again (and again!).
  • Hand your older toddler a pad of notes and a few crayons and say, "Would you draw a picture on each, and then decorate this door?"
  • Write a number from 1 to 20 or an individual letter -- from the alphabet, or just the ones in your child's name -- on each sticky note. Place the numbers or letters out of order on the wall and challenge your preschooler to put them in order.
  • If your child counts but doesn't yet recognize numbers, put one star on one note, two stars on the next one, and so forth. Then he can also line up his notes by the number of stars.

Souped-up stickers

What you'll need: Paper, two or three sheets of different stickers
Best for: 18 months and up
  • Draw small shapes and letters on the piece of paper. Toddlers can simply cover each shape or letter with a sticker.
  • Preschoolers can follow a key: Dog stickers go over the letter "D," for example, or stars on top of every "S."

Envelope surprise

What you'll need: Six envelopes with pictures of different objects in each one
Best for: 1 and up
  • Give your younger toddler one envelope at a time to explore; an older toddler can glue the pictures onto a piece of paper.
  • Hand over all the envelopes to your preschooler. She can sort the photos of like items into separate envelopes.

Baffling Kid Behavior -- Explained

Eliot Peitso of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was desperate to get outside. Or so he said. "Out! Out!" he yelled. His mom, Jennifer Johnson, rushed to get ready. Diaper bag packed, house keys located, toys and snacks stuffed into the stroller, she opened the door and had just stepped out when, suddenly, 20-month-old Eliot burst into tears and demanded to stay inside. Did he change his mind? Not exactly. Crossing the threshold again, Eliot wailed louder: "Out! Out!"

"So there I was," Johnson says, "bringing him back in, taking him out again -- which drove us both crazy!" Surely Eliot didn't want to spend the morning stuck in a doorway. In fact, after his mom finally got him out of the house, with tears streaming down his face, he began bouncing up and down in excitement only a block later.

Kids are a bundle of contradictory impulses. Adults are, too, sometimes: "I am so not hungry for dessert," we may say, even as our fork is poised to spear a generous bite of cherry pie. But why do children so often say the exact opposite not only of what they mean but of what they want or need? A little boy, his legs twisted more tightly than a braided loaf of challah bread, insists "I don't need to go!'"

A little girl who could talk of nothing else but her best friend's birthday party awakens that morning and announces: "Parties are dumb. I'm staying home!"

"Our kids aren't out to get us," says Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime. "Paradoxical behavior like this often happens because a child's feelings are in conflict with his needs, but he hasn't learned how to express either yet. Our job is to figure out what those feelings and needs really are and to help our kids voice them." The most common ways children sabotage themselves, and how we can help:

How to Get Your Kid To Sleep in Her Own Bed

Colleen Mulder-Seward and her husband, Rob Seward, were dying for a good night's sleep. Once their daughters got to ages 3 and 5, the Dexter, MI, couple fully (and perhaps foolishly, they now admit) expected they'd be enjoying eight hours of shut-eye again. Ah, the eternal optimism of parenthood!

In reality, Colleen and Rob would put their younger daughter, Jenna, to bed, only to see her again three hours later, throwing a queen-size fit and begging to sleep in their queen-size bed. They were way too tired to do anything but throw back the covers and invite her in.

Problem is, a threesome just wasn't their speed. "Eventually, one of us would get fed up with being kicked in the back by Jenna and go sleep in the guest room. We were tired all the time," says Colleen.

Tons of parents who didn't plan on having a family bed are finding that's exactly what they now have -- and want to get rid of, says Jill Spivack, L.C.S.W., a family therapist and formerly sleep-deprived mom herself who is the cocreator of The Sleepeasy Solution. "When you're exhausted, you follow the path of least resistance," she says. "You may have tried other things, but in desperation, you pull your kid into your own bed. You may not get perfect sleep, but at least you get some sleep."

The good news: You can untrain the little monster who's taking over your bed. The bad news: It may not be pretty. Your life is not an episode of Supernanny and your family's sleep issues won't get resolved in an hour or even a day. If you really want to make the change, though, and you're prepared for tears, wails, and cries of "But Mommy, don't you love me?" you'll make it through. Here's how to pull the my-bed-to-your-bed switcheroo:

Boys vs. Girls: Who's Harder to Raise

I often say that I spend more time and energy on my one boy than on my three girls. Other mothers of boys are quick to say the same. Forget that old poem about snips and snails and puppy dog tails, says Sharon O'Donnell, a mom of three boys and the author of House of Testosterone. "Somehow it's been changed to boys being made of 'fights, farts, and video games,' and sometimes I'm not sure how much more I can take!"

Not so fast, say moms of girls, who point out that they have to contend with fussier fashion sense, more prickly social navigations, and a far greater capacity to hold a grudge. And as a daughter grows, a parent's concerns range from body image to math bias.

Stereotyping, or large kernels of truth? "I think parents use 'which is harder?' as an expression of whatever our frustration is at the moment," says family therapist Michael Gurian, author of Nurture the Nature. "Boys and girls are each harder in different ways."

Every child is an individual, of course. His or her innate personality helps shape how life unfolds. Environment (including us, the nurturers) plays a role, too: "There are differences in how we handle boys and girls right from birth," says David Stein, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Virginia State University in Petersburg. "We tend to talk more softly to girls and throw boys in the air."

But it's also true that each gender's brain, and growth, unfolds at a different rate, influencing behavior. Leonard Sax, M.D., author of Boys Adrift, believes parents raise girls and boys differently because girls and boys are so different from birth -- their brains aren't wired the same way.

So, can we finally answer the great parenting debate over which sex is more challenging to raise? Much depends on what you're looking at, and when:

Is Your Child Gifted?

Did your child walk and talk early? Does she have a brain like a sponge? Scribble magnificently? Love learning? Ask questions that leave you marveling (and scrambling to Google an answer)?

Wow, clearly she's a genius!

Or, um, maybe not.

"Gifted" has become one of the most tossed-about words in the parenting lexicon. Unfortunately -- sorry, but let's get this out of the way right up front -- it's also one of the most misused. The vast majority of children are not gifted. Only 2 to 5 percent of kids fit the bill, by various estimates. Of those, only one in 100 is considered highly gifted. Prodigies (those wunderkinds who read at 2 and go to college at 10) are rarer still -- like one to two in a million. And despite the boom in infant-stimulation techniques, educational DVDs, learning toys, and enrichment classes, those numbers haven't been increasing. You can't build giftedness; it's mostly built in.

Still, it's hard to resist scrutinizing your child for signs of greatness. (Those "signs" in the first paragraph, by the way? Not one guarantees an intellectual giant.) The growing fascination with giftedness is part natural impulse to see our offspring as special, part wanting to be sure a child's needs are met, and maybe a bit of hoping for a competitive edge in the increasingly cutthroat school-admission process -- or bragging rights. "There are no average kids anymore," notes Devra Renner, a clinical social worker and coauthor of Mommy Guilt. "The word 'good' is like the new 'bad.' Why settle for even 'smart' when you could instead call your child 'gifted'?"

True giftedness may be as rare as Einsteins and Mozarts, but the good news is that there's loads you can do to help your child reach her full potential. Even better: Whether young children are truly advanced or happily average (where they have lots of company), in the early years they need pretty much the same things. To raise a happy, emotionally healthy kid, follow these five steps to success:

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How to Stop Worrying about Childcare

My first sitter, Maggie, spoiled me forever. We met, I adored her, she adored the baby, I hired her, and a love affair began. I left for work on her first day without a second thought -- really! I had no urge to run back and ask her 12 more questions about her experience, her references, her opinion on daytime TV or high-fructose corn syrup.

But the love affair had to end after a year -- we moved, too far to keep Maggie -- and we went through four more nannies before the next year came to a close. I had more than my share of irrational fears (like the time I was sure Christine had a boyfriend lurking around my house; she didn't, though she simply disappeared one day) and rational ones (like the time I was sure Danielle would quit to return to a glam fashion job; she did -- with no notice!). I second-guessed myself into a pretzel.

Even now, with 3-year-old Daniel and his little brother, James, happily and safely ensconced in daycare, I feel the uncertainty that seems part of handing over your kids to someone else. Should I work less or try again for a nanny? Shell out more cash for a ritzier daycare?

Fact is, "even when you know you've done it 'right' choosing childcare, the uncomfortable feelings come," says Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. Add in the childcare studies that periodically make alarming headlines in the media-like March's research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development about how kids in child-care centers exhibit a slight increase in minor behavior problems through sixth grade -- and it's a wonder any of us have a moment's peace of mind. (Of course, that study also found that kids who experience high-quality childcare, even in centers, have better-than-average vocabulary skills through fifth grade, but the guilt-provoking part of the findings got most of the play.)

The emotional tug-of-war is as much an unpleasant reality of childcare as late-pickup fees and the times your child calls the sitter "Mommy." To deal with some common childcare trip-ups

Christmas Day

It can be tough to find the perfect Christmas gift, but a couple of simple pieces of advice can make it easier for you. You can also read about the origins of the tradition of gift giving.
To some people, putting Christmas lights around the house has almost become a lifestyle, but one does not need to put too much – a few will actually do. Learn how to light up your house while reading about the history of holiday lights.
Are you hosting a Christmas party? Whether you’re celebrating for children or for grown ups, allow us to give you worthwhile ideas for great Christmas parties. Choose the theme that will make your party truly memorable.
We bring you the recipes for a wide variety of delicious Christmas dishes from cakes to soups, roasts and desserts. You can also read about what other countries enjoy during Christmas. You will definitely find a lot of inspiration to cook and bake during the Holiday season.

Santa Claus
All children know the kind, old Santa Claus. However, from a historical perspective, he actually isn’t that old and he has also been known as a rather fiery gentleman. Learn more about Santa Claus in this section.

Christmas stories gather the whole family. We bring a great variety of easy to print holiday stories for the whole family. Read, for example, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or “The Night before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore.
Get a clearly laid-out overview of the most important traditions of Xmas from the Christmas tree to the mistletoe and Christmas gifts. Where does Santa Claus really come from and what does the Gospel of Luke tell us about the birth of Jesus?
Few things create a better atmosphere than a Christmas tree, and there are actually quite a few different trees to choose from. People don’t use the same kind of Christmas tree in the USA and Europe. Read more about the history of the Christmas tree here.