Instill A Lifelong Joy of Giving

Have you ever given someone a gift that you could hardly wait to be opened? It can be even more fun than receiving. Do you ever wonder how to instill a generous spirit in your children? Here is a story about the excitement of giving to others and some ideas on how to foster a lifelong joy of giving.

Fun For Them

Many years ago I was in on a secret surprise to give my dad the perfect gift. It was Father’s Day and my mom helped us four kids plot and plan. We pooled our allowances—mine was thirty cents a week at the time—and got my dad a golf hat. Now that I think about it, I see my mom must have kicked in a few dollars of her own.

The event was fun and exciting and we just knew my dad was going to love his present. We had a good celebration and finally it was time to open the gift. Did I mention my dad is a talker? Yes, he is. He had that gift on is lap for what seemed like an eternity and talked and talked. He wondered what it was. He made some guesses. Then he tried to remember what he received the last Father’s Day. Finally, I couldn’t take the suspense anymore and I blurted out, “Dad, open your golf hat!”

As you can imagine, neither of us has forgotten that moment and I still take some regular ribbing about it. That said, I spilled the beans because I was so dang excited for my dad to open that hat.

Pleasurable For You

One way you can help your children cultivate the excitement for giving is by allowing giving to be pleasurable for you. If the words, hassle, no-time, and pain-in the rear come to mind around holidays and gift giving, your children probably won’t capture the fun of it either. If instead you project a sense of delight when giving to others, your children will probably catch the magic of giving too.

Conspire Together

Another way to encourage a love of giving is to have fun wondering together what friends and family would enjoy receiving. For example, “What’s Mom’s favorite cake? Let’s make it and surprise her!”

Create Traditions

Creating special giving traditions can also make giving fun for children. Some good family friends always took each of their twin daughters Christmas shopping separately so the girls could buy for each other. These shopping missions were memory makers, and it was all about finding something wonderful for sister.

Giving is wonderful fun. Your children will catch the joy from you as you enjoy it yourself!

First written in the Parents’ Resource Guide Fall/Holiday 2017 Edition

Quality Time Counts

What are your thoughts when it comes to quality time with your children? More for the to-do list? A pang of guilt? If so, allow me to introduce a more inspiring way to think of quality time.

Close your eyes and think back to when you were little. Do you have some distant memories of when an adult spent a few special moments with you? It could have been Mom or Dad, a grandparent, aunt, uncle or any other trusted adult. The key is that you shared some enjoyable time together. Usually the memories people have are very simple; reading with Mom, helping Grandma bake, wrestling and giggling, or going along to the hardware store. To this day, my husband loves remembering going to the dump with his dad. With quality time–it’s less about the activity and more about the quality of the interaction.

It’s Not Expensive or Time Consuming

Often parents think quality time is doing something extravagant and expensive, or that it has to be an all-day event. If you have the wherewithal for that, knock yourself out. But you don’t need any of that for quality time.

A favorite quality time memory from my childhood is my dad singing me a goodnight song. He would tuck me in and I’d feel warm and snuggly. “Day is done, gone the sun,” he would sing. I still have the sense memory of his voice rumbling in my ears. How safe and loved I felt as he sang, “All is well, safely rest…” Even today I feel a bit emotional when I remember that. How long did it take him to sing that song? 60 seconds? That was a supercharged 60 seconds of quality time and it laid a foundation in my relationship with my dad.

Skip The Guilt

Research from a longitudinal study printed in the April 2015, Journal of Marriage and Family reveals that children don’t need more time with their parents. What they do need is for parents to manage stress so they can tune in for moments of quality time. That means you can quit feeling stressed and guilty for not having more time with your children. Instead you can choose to lighten up and enjoy the moments you do have with them.

Here are a few simple steps for quality time:

  • Get yourself in a good mood
  • Allow yourself to be companionable
  • Be in the moment, and yes, put down your phone

As fall schedules rev up and it feels like there is less of you to go around, that’s okay. You can make use of the time you do have, and know it is enough. Remember, just a few minutes of quality time really does count.

First written in the Parents’ Resource Guide Summer 2017 Edition

Create An Effective Parenting Team

Get On The Same Page

“We want to get on the same page with our parenting,” is a phrase I hear from almost every couple taking my parenting workshops. This common aspiration is a challenge to manifest. Why is it so hard, and how do couples align their styles to create an effective parenting team? Psychologist, Dr. John Gottman, says, “Every marriage is a cross-cultural experience.” I love this statement because it indicates how each partner comes from a unique family that did things a certain way. Whether you loved it, hated it, or are indifferent, the way we grow up, just seems normal.

I remember celebrating Christmas with my husband’s family during the beginning of our relationship. His family passed out the gifts all at once. What?! In my family, we chose and opened one gift at a time. To me, it felt like my husband’s family was celebrating Christmas wrong! It’s a small thing, but it brought up strong feelings. That’s because when a couple gets together, they are are blending two separate family cultures, each with a myriad of customs, rituals and beliefs. When parenting styles enter the mix, it’s not surprising that parents often don’t see eye-to-eye and experience emotional discord.

It’s not just couples trying to get on the same page. Frequently, a single parent and grandparent try to create a parenting team. Maybe the parent is trying to make some changes from the way he or she was raised and is running into trouble with the elder generation who wants to keep things old-school.

Helpful Three-Step Process

So how do you become more aligned with your parenting partner? Here is a three step process that can help.

  1. Take time to talk about both perspectives and what is important about each. Make a commitment to spend time listening and asking questions about the other person’s point of view. Many times each partner’s sense of identity is wrapped up in these perspectives.
  2. Find something to value in your partner’s position. In what ways can you appreciate how you counterbalance each other?
  3. Agree how each of you can make a concession or two and move toward the other’s stance. Rather than polarizing the other by insisting you are 100 percent right, you can move to middle ground.

It feels good to be on the same team, especially when we know we need our A-game with our children or they will be running the show! Even if it feels a little strange to step out of your old way of doing things, it may be a whole lot better for your children and bring some happiness and harmony between you and your partner.

Originally printed in The Parents’ Resource Guide 25th Anniversary Edition as, Are You Two On The Same Page?

Chores: A Favor To Your Children

Have you ever heard someone say, “I had to learn how to do chores once I became an adult?” Or maybe a person will say, “I never learned how to clean.” Perhaps, you have said such words. If others were doing most everything for you, it can feel like you didn’t quite catch on to how to keep up with household tasks, yourself. Of course we can learn to do these things anyway, but it may feel more challenging. So guess what? When you are teaching your children to do chores, you are doing them a big favor!

Who knew, that when my mom was showing me how to clean the toilet (don’t forget the bottom part!), and vacuum the carpet (be sure to get in the corners!), and load the dishwasher (rinse off the chunks!) she was giving me a gift. I don’t think I would have seen it that way at the time. It certainly didn’t feel like a gift when I made a gender roles complaint that my brother didn’t have to help with the dishes and I unwittingly got myself the job of picking up the dog poop!

Chores Help Children

I keep bumping into research with positive correlations about children doing chores. You might want to check out the Wall Street Journal article, Why Children Need Chores. Doing chores teaches responsibility and gives children the sense that they can contribute. Contributing gives a feeling of efficacy: I can do stuff! Contributing also creates a feeling of belonging. I am a part of the team—my family, that is. Having everyone contribute helps us remember that, I’m no more, and no less important, than anyone else in the family.

Does that mean your kids will always do their chores with a big smile on their faces? Doubt it. But then again, do you? Enjoying the task is optional; you can still insist everyone participates.

I visited a friend for lunch the other day and when it came to mealtime, every one of her kids had a job. They scattered like mice, scurrying around, each with their own little task. One set out the napkins; one grabbed the flatware; bread appeared on the table. Wow! It was magical how the mother had given each child a manageable task and the table was set. Obviously, a lot had gone on behind the scenes regarding consistent, well-defined responsibilities. But it was paying off in spades; mom was getting help, and the children were receiving the life-long benefits of participating in life tasks. With some planning and patience, you and your family can do this too!


Waterfalls & Mindful Parenting

As fall approaches, many of us think toward the new school year and the ending of summer. Long, relaxing afternoons along the Yuba River will fade to gearing up for school activities. The hustle bustle of the school year can bring a busy-ness and it’s easy to forget the mindful moments of summer. Getting breakfast on the table, lunches made, and backpacks checked, and getting everyone out the door in the mornings, for example—can make us forget to slow down. The slower, more relaxed parenting of summer can quickly disappear and “scary Mommy”, as one mom described herself at her worst, can step in. Who wants a year of scary Mommy or angry Daddy running the show? No one.

Stay Mindfully Grounded

Okay, so now what? Here is where waterfalls and mindful parenting come in. We don’t have to get swept away in the hustle bustle. We can fine ways to stay mindfully grounded. Here is a story about what one mom did to help keep her center.

One Mom’s Story…

During the course of a parenting workshop Mom realized she was losing control at home. Whether it was letting the expletives rip, losing her temper and yelling, or throwing up her hands with gaining her child’s cooperation, she realized she gave up her self-control. Not only that, but she gave up her center and her ability to take charge as a parent. Mom started to see that the calmer she was with her child, the more responsive her child was with her. Neuroscientist, Dr. M. Hofer, and researcher Dr. T. Field, have advanced the idea that relationships are regulators, suggesting that relationships help regulate optimal arousal. This means that to calm our children, we must first calm ourselves. In working with hundreds of parents, I think this is the single most important factor for parents to learn in order to enjoy their relationships with their children.

What’s your Power Word?

I asked the mom who was having trouble staying calm, what might be a power word and image to help her manifest herself as she wants to be. She closed her eyes and thought for a minute. Before too long, she opened her eyes and said, “waterfall”. I didn’t know why this was particularly meaningful to her and that didn’t matter. What mattered, and we could both feel it, was that this would be her powerful word/image that would give her strength to be who she wanted to be during times of stress.

Through advances in neuroscience, we know that our brains have plasticity. This means that if we practice self-calming and keep at it, we can train our brains to respond in new ways. This is hopeful for those of us in a bad rut. As far as the mom using the power word “waterfall”, she practiced using it to stay grounded and strong.

What is your power word? Find it.

Routines & Rituals, A Parent’s Best Friend

7:30, 7:30, 7:30, my seven year-old-self used to say in a sing-songy voice with resigned indignation as a traipsed off to bed. Everyone in the family knew that this was my official bedtime. As the youngest of four kids, I didn’t like going to bed earlier than my siblings. Did that matter? Not particularly. Regardless of what I said or did, when the clock struck 7:30, it was lights out.

Routines & Rituals Do the Work

The fact that I had an unvarying, official bedtime was my mom’s secret weapon to getting me to bed without too much trouble. On school nights, I knew there would be no budging on this point, so I gave only a few halfhearted gripes about it now and then. I knew I had to get to bed at the designated time because the routine was set. After dinner, it was bath, teeth, story time, and then bed…at 7:30.

Powerful Interventions

I recently shared this memory in a parenting workshop to illustrate the power of creating rituals & routines. Once a routine is in place, children know what to expect and what is expected of them. It gives a rhythm to the days and nights, as well a sense of comfort and security to children. Create your ritual or routine by giving it a little thought and creativity.  You can use them for gaining cooperation or additionally, providing emotional support. Some parents devise morning routines to help everyone get up and off to school, in a good humor and fully dressed! Sometimes a parent creates a special good-bye ritual at preschool to help a child let go of Mom or Dad. Putting a routine in place can smooth whatever situation may result in distress for you and your children.

Start Your Routine

Getting a new routine started isn’t necessarily easy. Here are a few ideas to help you put your routine in place:

• Decide exactly what the routine will involve

• All family members living agree to uphold the routine (yes, that means you)

• Sit down with the kids and let them know about the new plan

• Invite their suggestions and incorporate their ideas into the plan

Get Some Buy-In

Children will be much more interested in following the new plan if they help to create it. So give a visual representation of the routine. This could be a checklist, pictures, or photographs of your child in poses demonstrating the routine. Go ahead and let them ham it up! Creating this together can be fun stuff! One mom of a three-year-old had the idea of using a felt board with cut out felt figures of the morning routine. How cool is that?

Your New BFF

Whatever ritual or routine you put in place, it may become your BFF in providing parenting support!


Make a Fresh Start and Create a Happier Home

The real title of this article is, “Yes, You Can Stop Yelling at Your Kids!” Let’s face it, many parents struggle with this one. Parents don’t want to yell at their kids, and yet they do. Sometimes stress is high, sometimes parents are repeating old patterns, other times parents can’t get their children to cooperate. If you are sick of yelling and ready to give it up, here are a few steps to help.

You Can Give Up Yelling

  1. Check your underlying thoughts about what is going on just before you yell. What is the story you are telling yourself that is triggering your big reaction? Is your child’s behavior reminding you of some unfinished business from your past? Spend some time in mindfulness and explore what is affecting you. Be kind to yourself; there may be an old hurt that needs attention. Talk about it with a good friend. If you feel stuck, seek professional help. I remember having the thought that “something is wrong” when my daughter was testing boundaries when she was about five years old. Ironically, it was this thought, more than her behavior that would activate me to shout.
  1. Promise yourself that no matter what, you can stop are not going to yell. You can experience feelings from A to Z, but that doesn’t mean you have to yell. Count to ten and back to one if you need to. Or do five jumping jacks before you allow yourself to speak one word to your kids. It’s amazing what a difference a few seconds can make as to what comes out of your mouth. And by the way, this can work wonders with the adults in your life too!
  1. Create a plan of what you will do instead of yelling. Ask yourself, what does my child need from me when problems occur? Connection? Limits? A snack? If you make a clear plan for yourself ahead of time, you will know what to do instead of losing control. If you need help with what to do, attend a parenting workshop and get some ideas. Write down your plan and share it with your partner or a friend. Track your results until you have created a new way of dealing with conflict.

Stay In The Parent Role

Years ago, my daughter noticed immediately when I stopped myself from yelling and instead told her to go to her room. I was very upset and she could see me restraining myself. Instead of yelling I said, “Haley”, breath, breath, “go to your room”, breath, “please.” I will never forget her piping up with the response, “Mommy, I like the way you said that.” It was such a role-reversal to have her acknowledge my efforts at managing my behavior that it confirmed for me that I never again wanted to be in the child-role with my five-year-old! I stopped yelling for good and that’s how I know you can too. When you do, you will be on the way to creating a happy and healthy home for yourself and your family.



Fostering Sibling Friendships

Did you know that on average, siblings between the ages of three and seven argue about 10 minutes of every hour? I love telling parents about this fact from the studies in the book, Nurture Shock, New Thinking About Children, because it gives parents a feeling of relief that, “Whew, my kids aren’t the only ones that bicker!” Concerns about how to deal with sibling conflict are some of the most frequently asked questions I hear from parents. It can bring up a lot of emotions. As parents, we love our kids and want them to love each other. And it can drive parents a little nuts when their children seem to be arguing all day long. Here is some information about how to alleviate sibling conflict and how to foster positive sibling relationships.

Highlight the Fun Times

One key idea is that siblings who have fun together—at least some of the time—will be more motivated to work through their differences. One researcher reported that when sibling interactions resulted in net positive interactions, this made the difference for enduring relationships later in life. The siblings who just ignored each other as kids tended to stay cool and distant in the long term. Think back to your own sibling relationships; does this idea hold true? I tended to scrap with one of my sisters—okay, I admit it, I still do—but we also had a ton of fun during the good times. The relationship was important enough that we would always make up; and still do, thank goodness. When relationships have some positive emotional resonance, siblings will be more motivated to get past the conflict. They want their playmate back!

Teach Social Skills

Another key idea to encourage positive sibling relationships is to help children develop the skills to get along with each other. These skills will come in handy for getting along with their age-mates as well. If left to their own devices, children are likely to push and grab and squawk to get what they want. They don’t come preprogramed with a pleasant negotiation skill-set. Never fear, parents can help children develop the skills they need for successful interactions. Parents will then need to exercise patience, patience while encouraging their children to practice, practice.

Cover the Basics

To get started, think about what stumbling blocks occur during your children’s conflicts. First off, check the basics. Are the kids too tired, too hungry or over-stimulated? If so, that requires adult intervention to meet those needs to help children be at their best. Next, think about skills your children need to learn to negotiate with each other. What do you see them doing that is not working? Can you think of more appropriate alternatives that you can teach them to do instead?

Use Cue Words

One program called, “More Fun With Brothers And Sisters” helped siblings develop negotiation skills with one another by using the words, “Stop”, “Think”, and “Talk”. These were used as cues to help children learn to initiate play, find activities that both siblings liked, and how to gently decline play when they were not interested.

What do you think is the most common reason for sibling conflict? The answer is the sharing of possessions. You can help your children with this by teaching them to say, “May I have a turn when you are done?”

When your children seem to be hassling each other day and night, just remember that it is normal for children to squabble. Take a deep breath and help them practice their negotiation skills and find ways to highlight the good times.


Parenting workshops offered through Schools

Special to The Union

Parents of children ages 2 through 12 can have their own version of back-to-school in the form of Triple P parenting workshops.

Triple P, which stands for Positive Parenting Program, is an eight-week, evidence-based series to support parents with the big job of raising happy, healthy children.

With the support of the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office, these workshops will be offered throughout the school year at schools including Scotten, Cottage Hill, Union Hill, Deer Creek, Ready Springs, as well as the Sierra College Child Development Center.

The workshops cost $30 for a materials fee, Triple P Facilitator Meg Luce said. Scholarships are available for families who cannot afford the fee.

Free childcare and snacks are provided.

“What strikes me most about facilitating Triple P is that parents want to do better,” Luce said. “They hate being impatient or unkind to their children.

“The workshops provide an opportunity to step out of the daily hustle and think about how things are going and how to create improvements in family life,” she added. “When parents put new practices in place that are in line with their values, they feel immensely good about it.”

Luce said her favorite part of the workshop is teaching about the power of connecting with children.

“We are often so busy in our lives just trying to get the kids fed and the chores done that sometimes we can forget about stopping to connect with our children,” she added. “When we remember to do that, if even for moments at a time, kids notice and behavior often improves.”

Interested parents may contact Luce for workshop openings throughout the school year at 530-913-2745.

We Do This At School!

Originally published in the Summer 2015 Parents’ Resource Guide

Leyda Morales knows firsthand about school culture. After years of working with children in the Grass Valley Schools as English Learning Manager, she is well studied in the daily conventions of school. I was tickled with her enthusiasm as she said what became a familiar refrain while she was interpreter for a Triple P Parenting workshop for Spanish-speaking families. Every so often throughout the class Leyda would interject brightly, “We do this at School!”

Family Rules Help Children

When children come to school they learn how to function as part of a group, how to take turns, and how to follow a set of school rules. Leyda was in a unique position. She observed similarities between what families were learning at the workshop, and how this compared with what children learn in order to function at school. She got me thinking how when families have clear, age-appropriate guidelines at home, their children will have more of a sense about how to fit in at school. This can make the transition toward acclimating to school each fall a whole lot easier on kids.

Be Collaborative

At times, Leyda got excited during Spanish Triple P, and her Spanish would sound faster and faster. I wouldn’t have a clue what she was saying, until she would stop and say, in English, “I was just telling the class how ”we do this in school!”

On one occasion, I had been sharing the strategy of setting clear ground rules. Some families like to think of this as making family agreements. The family sits together and talks about what will help them get along better. They brainstorm on reducing the fighting and increasing the fun. Also, how to incorporate into the rules the family’s values for treating each other with love and respect. Get the rules down on paper next, and perhaps even have the children write down and decorate the document. Next, post the family rules for everyone to see. Leyda explained how at school they teach the rules of caring for each other and their school. Every child learns what is expected.

We Do This At Home!

Children who live in a household with clear standards and accountability can more easily understand about the rules at school. There will be something familiar about having the teachers say, “Wait your turn, please.” If you haven’t already been doing this at home, don’t worry! It’s never too late. You can sit down and make your family agreements today. Just remember, it will take time for your kids to test out whether you’re serious about enforcing these new ideas.When children go to school after practicing family rules at home, it feels natural to abide by school rules. Why? Because they can think to themselves, I know how this works because we do this at home!