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Archive for December 2009

“The World’s Strictest Parents”

If your kids ever complain that you’re too strict, tell them they can move to Arkansas. Parents there are supposedly the toughest on teens.

That’s according to the results of a not-so-scientific survey conducted on the website for “The World’s Strictest Parents,” a reality show that takes rebellious teens away from their own families and forces them to live with other parents who describe themselves as firm and unflinching. According to this story from Sioux Falls, S.D., about 72,000 people voted nationwide and Arkansas came out as the state with the strictest moms and dads while the ones in South Dakota were perceived as the most lenient when it comes to discipline.

The survey showed that about 48 percent of the respondents in Washington state described their parents as “ridiculously rigid” and nearly 41 percent of those in Idaho said their moms and dads were the “biggest push-overs.” In response to the question, “What’s the best punishment for a lazy teen?,” nearly 4 percent said “Yell at them,” while the vast majority chose, “Take away privileges.” About 15 percent responded with, “Give them more chores.”

How would your kids describe the way you discipline? How strict are you with your children?

Too much stuff again

Now that the holidays are behind us, our home is once again full of toys.

In the past, we tried to encourage our children to get rid of some of their stuff by donating a toy or two before bringing something new into the house. I also started a “toy library” by collecting all the clutter — the stuffed animals, superheroes, cars, Legos, etc. — and asking the kids to return a toy to a section of the basement before “checking out” something different.

Both strategies worked for a little while but I wasn’t able to stay on top of the toy management. Before long, I found myself either nagging my kids or spending a few hours each week trying to keep Lego sets together, putting clothing back on the dolls and picking up stuff left all over the house. The toys in the giveaway box also disappeared and somehow assimilated back into the mess.

I’ve also tried to discourage relatives from giving my kids more stuff, but it’s not always easy.

What do you do at your house to reduce the clutter?

Thank you notes from kids

At my house, gift-opening can be chaotic — especially during the holidays. As much as I try to get my kids to pace themselves, they end up ripping through boxes and gift wrap so quickly that it’s sometimes hard for me to keep track of who gave what.

As a result, I haven’t been very good at having them write thank you cards. It’s a poor excuse, I know.

In years past, if I didn’t take notes or if the gift opening got a little too crazy, I still wrote thank you cards on behalf of my kids that were a little generic in nature. But now that they’re older, I feel as though they should be writing their own notes, even if it’s just a picture they’ve drawn.

In a recent column, Miss Manners chastised a mom who complained about having to slow things down by making her kids pause after each gift they opened. That way, they can tell her what they got and from whom so they can write very specific thank-you notes, as requested by their grandmother. “It was torture,” the mom wrote. “For them and myself. It ruined Christmas morning for me wanting to see my kids dive into the gift opening, and I’m sure it drove them crazy. I was writing and missed their expressions.”


Miss Manners told her she was wrong and her mother-in-law was right. The kids shouldn’t be tearing into the gifts and yes, they should be more conscious of the gift giver by taking notes.

Parents: Do your children write thank-you notes?

The challenge (and reward) of getting kids outside in winter

Getting ready to ski can be downright painful.

It’s hard enough at times to get myself outfitted for the weather, but it becomes even more challenging when I have to cajole my 3- and 6-year-olds into long underwear, snowsuits, gloves, helmets and other ski gear. My children love winter but today they had to plow through heavy, Pacific snow while being pelted by freezing rain.

Somehow, they were still smiling when we went into the lodge for hot chocolate.

I spent my childhood in the Philippines so skiing was never part of my family’s culture. But things changed when I married someone from Alaska. I learned to downhill ski when I was 28 and then took up Nordic skiing after the birth of my oldest child. I absolutely love to cross-country ski on the Nordic trails at Mount Spokane but I sometimes still dread having to pack the Chariot (the ski pulk), the kids’ skis, my stuff, food, hot chocolate, treat and everything else we need to make winter an enjoyable experience.

“You have to have a sense of humor about this,” my husband said after lunch as he helped the kids ease into semi-wet snowsuits.

As much as I struggle getting the family ready, I have to say it’s been worth all the effort. Skiing has brought my family even closer, I think, and being outdoors in the winter time has taught my children to embrace nature.

How about you? What winter activities does your family do? How do you get everybody ready and out the door? How do you keep it fun when the weather gets challenging?

Keeping track of baby: Gathering data on your kid

My eldest child’s baby book is chock full of information — from ultrasound pics and our family history to minute-by-minute details of his birth as well as photographs and copious notes on the first time he did anything.

Then our daughter was born three years later. I’m embarassed to admit this, but her baby book stops abruptly at five months. I returned to work at that time and although I kept photographs, cards, notes written on Post-Its, I just never got a chance to compile them. It’s still on my to-do list and she’s already 3.

I know I’m not the only one. My husband, the youngest of four children, didn’t even have baby pictures.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum are parents like Allen Fawcett. According to this story from Wired, Fawcett and his wife use the Trixie Tracker website to record their children’s schedules. When the story was published, the Fawcetts knew they had changed exactly 7,367 diapers for their 3-year-old son and 969 for their three-month daughter. They even kept track of their children’s sleep patterns and feeding times using their IPhones.

According to the Wired story, keeping data on children is a growing trend. Some parents say it’s a way to make sure their kids are healthy and developing normally. Others, however, find the information overwhelming. They say it takes time away from actually playing and being in the moment with their children.

What do you think? What kind of data or information about your kids would be most helpful to you? What type of details do you include in your children’s scrapbooks?

Maternal profiling?

With so many people afraid to lose their jobs, some moms who work outside the home feel as though they have no choice but to skip their kids’ sports games, winter concerts and other events.

If a child needs to go to the doctor’s, they tell their boss that they’re going to their own doctor’s appointment instead of admitting they have a sick kid.

“(I)n an era of rampant job insecurity, it seems indefensible to request time off to hear my kid sing an Italian folk song—or get her a flu shot,” wrote Newsweek reporter Kathleen Deveny in her latest column, “Families Need To Man Up.”

Since men have bit hit hardest by this recession, women now have more than half of the jobs in the United States, Deveny points out. Despite their added responsibilities outside the home, women are still viewed as the caregivers — the ones who should be volunteering at school, driving the carpool, attending recitals and other events that involve their children.

“Maternal profiling is real,” Deveny stressed. “When a working father takes time off to watch a ballet recital, he’s seen as noble. When a working mother rushes out of the office to care for a case of head lice, she’s more likely to be labeled undependable.”

What do you think? Is the workplace harder on moms than dads?

Four Letter Words

The other day something happened, can’t remember what, but I said, “Oh crap.”  “Mom,” my 8-year old son said, “you’re not supposed to say that.”  Well, it was better than what I really wanted to say.  While attending a Christian boarding school, I knew that I would have to curb the language, no four letter words here.  But what I didn’t know was that I was also not allowed to say shoot, darn or oh my goodness.  These are minced oaths-words based on profanity, but changed to make them less profane.  Didn’t know that expression until I was told at school.

I still say words I shouldn’t, like crap-four letter word, minced, chopped and pureed.

The digital divide

While some tech-savvy kids have been using the computer since preschool or even toddlerhood, there are still a significant number of children out there who have limited access to technology. These are the kids who stay after school to use the computers or who have no choice but to access the Internet by going to the public libary.

A recent Washington Post story explored this digital divide. For some low-income and immigrant families, online homework assignments aren’t easy to complete. Many don’t have computers at home. Those who do sometimes can’t afford to pay for Internet access. Besides not being able to do research online or complete webquests, PowerPoints and other school assignments, these children’s parents don’t have e-mail, which can sometimes make it difficult for teachers to communicate with them.

As more classrooms begin to use Blackboard and other tools that require students to participate in online discussion groups, these students without access to technology are left even further behind. Although some schools provide computer access during class time, the lunch period and even before or after school, low-income students may not be able to take advantage of the technology because the school bus is their only transportation or they have to care for younger siblings, the Post pointed out.

Without a computer, “there’s a kind of a wall, a barrier to the world,” said Ying Wu, 18, a high school senior told the Washington Post.

Do most of your children’s peers have access to technology? What can schools and communities do in order to bridge this digital divide?

Fewer presents for kids may be the best gift of all

Lots of families have tighter budgets this year. For many, that means fewer gifts under the Christmas tree.

Instead of feeling guilty or worried about not being able to buy your children the toys and other stuff on their wish list, experts say use this experience as an opportunity to teach your kids about the importance of time and being together instead of getting lots of toys and gifts.

Be honest about your budget, advised some parenting experts. At the same, keep the holidays special by finding free or inexpensive activities such as baking cookies and making homemade gifts and emphasizing the need to spend time together as a family.

“‘Cutting back’ this year actually may just be a blessing in disguise, a way to help your kids understand the true meaning of Christmas and bring back the real magic of the holidays,” Michele Borba, author of “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions“ told North Carolina’s Gaston Gazette in a recent article about scaling back for the holidays.

Borba offered the following advice:

  • Set a budget.
  • Share new expectations. Explain to kids that everyone will receive fewer presents.
  • Reframe Santa. Don’t build false hope that Santa is guaranteed to bring everything your child desires.
  • Cut out the extra little purchases – gift cards, ribbon, wrapping paper, greeting cards, table decorations, etc.
  • Make the holidays for the kids. Instead of shopping for friends and relatives, forgo the gift exchange and put that money towards the kid gifts.
  • Check out thrift stores.
  • Stress time together. Suggest family members give the gift of time to your kids instead of purchased gifts.
  • Suggest handmade instead of store bought.
  • Make kids prioritize.

In this tight economy, what else can families do to spend less money but keep the holiday spirit alive?

Moms-to-be hiring baby planners

People expecting a child can now get professional help as they design their nursery, baby-proof their home and even shop for maternity clothes.

Baby planning services are apparently growing in popularity, according to a recent Associated Press story. The article noted that as many as 60 to 70 planners such as Nest Help in Chicago have sprouted up in the last few years.

One of those companies, Sweet Pea Baby Planners — which offers its services in California, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina and is willing to travel wherever clients live — can help parents during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Sweet Pea will do everything from decorate the nursery and shop for maternity clothes to finding a pediatrician and helping out once the baby is born. Its staff also can hire a nanny for you, provide sleep consulting and create a customized baby sleep plan, even assist with preschool placement.

“We’re like wedding planners, but we’re helping you prepare for your baby’s arrival and all the information and research you have to deal with,” a Portland-based baby planner told the Associated Press.

According to the article, the baby planners charge anywhere from $50 to $150 an hour. Some also offer packages that can cost as much as several thousand dollars.

Baby planners can help alleviate stress, parents said, especially as they juggle the demands of career and home.

If you had the extra money, would you hire a baby planner? Why or why not?

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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.

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