Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Creative Ways to Encourage Your Child to Fall in Love with Reading

By Amy Williams

Everyone always says that reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, but how necessary is it really? Well, as it turns out, it really is as vital as they say! Reading helps develop creative thinking skills, helps kids practice critical reasoning, gives them examples of morality and wrongdoing, and instills a strong sense of creativity. Even better, all of these goals can be accomplished before your child is even old enough to walk!

How can you get your child to fall in love with reading? Making your children sit down and read for a set amount of time each day is certainly not the answer. Getting your kids to become passionate page-turners takes a bit of work. Fortunately, we have a few ideas to make your job a lot easier!

Be Colorful Pick books that are colorful, sturdy, and have lots of visual features, such as illustrations. This will help to keep their attention tuned into the book, instead of whatever may be happening on the other side of the room.

Tag Team It Once your child is old enough to begin learning how to read, ask them to read along with you. You can take turns reading one page after another, ask them to read to a sibling, or even ask them to spell out words that they don’t understand. You know your child best so rely on your intuition in figuring out what your child needs the most!

Make It Cozy Do you have an independent reader? It might be time for you to create a reading nook where they can go to enjoy their favorite books and stories. Soft cushions, a well-stocked bookshelf, and a cozy blanket can go a long way when it comes to turning your children into lifelong readers!

Cuddle Up Kids love physical contact (and depend on it)! Take advantage of your snuggle time by using it to fill your children’s brains with words. Even just a short book can help grab their attention and get them thinking. Remember – a little bit of reading adds up to A LOT of knowledge over time!

Take A Trip There’s nothing more exciting for a child than being let loose in any kind of store. On the next rainy afternoon, take your children to the local bookstore or library and allow them all to pick out one or two books. As soon as they have finished those, you can make another trip to the bookstore or library!

Set An Example Remember – you are the best possible example for your children! If they see you reading often, chances are good that they too will become avid readers. Talk openly about your favorite books, and encourage them to start a collection of their own personal reading treasures.

Raising readers is one of the best things you can do for your children. It will benefit them in both their education and careers, and we can guarantee that they’ll thank you for it down the road.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

Raising Well Balanced Children: 
How to Best Support Their Journey
By Susie Walton
Often times when given advice as to what to do when parenting, we're left wondering, but HOW do I do this...or that?  It seems as though what may come easily to one parent, may not come so easily to another parent.  This article will be giving some suggestions on (HOW) with   Heartfelt Optimum Ways one can begin to implement some parenting skills to expand their parenting toolbox!  Or one can simply think of it like adding recipes to their existing recipe box.
Let's start with the most reliable predictors of adult success; according to Daniel Goleman, PhD., the most reliable predictors of adult success are not grades in high school or even a collegiate pedigree, but rather these six qualities of emotional intelligence:
  1. Empathy
  2. Optimism
  3. Flexibility
  4. Good sense of humor
  5. The capacity to function as a team player
  6. The ability to respond to setbacks
Before I go through each one, it's important to note that it will be easier for your kids to attain these if the parents model them:
  • Understand before being understood
  • Be Heartfelt ~ see through your heart
  • Acknowledge ~ empathy creates connection
  • Celebrate Mistakes ~Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
  • Gratitude feast: each person shares what they are grateful for
  • Look for the gift ~ the silver lining
  • Go with the flow
  • Keep things simple
  • Self Care ~ taking care of yourself helps you become a better parent
A Good Sense of Humor: 
  • Have fun
  • Keep it light
  • Don't take yourself too seriously
Capacity to Function as a Team Player:
  • Discover each family members strength 
  • Encouragement feast ~ each person shares what they love about each person
  • Mind Trust ~ when you have a problem with a family member you go to the person
Ability to Respond to Setbacks: 
  • Allow Children to Have Their Feelings
  • Natural Consequences ~ If We Allow A Child To Experience The Consequence Of His Acts, We Provide An Honest And Real Learning Situation
  • Self Reliance
Allowing your children to have their feelings sets the foundation for their self-reliance!!  Why?   Because as children go through life, their ability to respond to setbacks is primarily based on their ability to move themselves through all of their feelings.  When a child can move themselves from one feeling to another, they are building a very rich and strong internal guidance system.  This guidance system is what guides them to move closer to or away from someone or something.  It is what guides them into or out of situations that are healthy or unhealthy and when in an unhealthy situation (or setback) to move themselves through it.  Over time, and with enough experience, their trust in their command of their feelings develops self-confidence!  This process is done primarily through Natural Consequences...so let those consequences (when in good reason) play out.  This requires the parent to be aware of his/her feelings in order not to mix their own emotions into the child's process.  Parent's often times want to make it better or take care of the child (hoping that their child doesn't have to experience sadness, disappointment, anger, hurt, etc.) and the result is a robbing of their children's rich opportunities to build their own emotional muscles!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Books on Love and Friendship

Many thanks to Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs, for allow us to share her article on books on love and friendship!

By Cindy Hudson

Love comes in many forms: between parents and children, between siblings and other family members, among friends. And Valentine's Day is a good time to celebrate the love all around us with books that focus on special relationships of all kinds.

Here are a few books to check out for several age groups.

Picture Books
Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle - as Flora and the flamingo dance around each other, they learn about the power of friendship and how friends can bring out our insecurities as well as help us overcome them.

If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond - Special moments moms and dads would hold onto if they could are featured, things like singing lullabies, holding a child's hand, kissing cuts and scrapes, and finger painting.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn - This modern classic helps reassure children that their parents love them even when they can't spend the day together with them.

Ages 9 to 13
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White - Louis the trumpeter swan may not have a voice, but he knows how to let the ones he cares about feel his friendship and love.

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanna Rocklin - Oona comforts her younger brother, and helps him learn to read while nursing their sick cat.

Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg - Clare learns from villages in Malawi to honor loss by celebrating life.
A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker - Laugh out loud funny look at what happens when two teens are paired up in a mock wedding during senior year to teach them about responsibility.

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar - When Alton is roped into turning cards at bridge games for his blind Uncle Lester, he ends up learning a lot more than how to play cards.

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick - Amber is an eternal optimist, despite her difficult life, which is why she is driven to help people others often ignore.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inspiration for the New Year

Many thanks to Susie Walton for this beautiful article on inspiration!  

by Susie Walton

When I was asked to write about this topic my first thought was, "Where does my inspiration come from?" Immediately what came to me was, 'my family'.
I then looked up the definition of inspiration: "the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially something creative."
My kids were my catalyst, my inspiration, to begin teaching parenting courses over 25 years ago and once again they were my inspiration to write my book, Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect our Family Lives ...25 years later they are still my source of inspiration as they inspire me to be the best that I can be and when slacking a bit, they challenge me on it.
My favorite quote is: "It Takes A Village To Raise A Child" It has been the source and inspiration for much of my life's work so I decided to turn to my village, my kids, a niece and nephew of mine, to find out what inspires them - what is behind their inspiration when parenting and what are some things that keep them inspired as parents: I am honored to share their words with each of you:

Tuffy and Gina:
Having faith in God that he would not give me more than I can handle.
Parenting is a never-ending work in progress. It's a daily learning experience. I often remind myself that while I teach my kids all about life, in the midst of the crazy, they are actually teaching me what life is all about. The attempt at perfect parenting has been a struggle of mine, yet I find comfort in knowing there are no perfect parents, no perfect children but there are many perfect moments along the way.
I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:
"Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work."

Nate and Ali: 
It is the most inspiring thing to be able to wake up everyday and share new memories as a family. We have had the time of our life having all these "firsts" together the past 16 months of Willa's life. 

Becoming a parent has really enriched my relationship with my husband. To be able to see Nate interacting with our daughter is completely awe- inspiring and pure magic. I get inspired seeing so much of him in her.  As I watch her, I get to imagine what my best friend was like as a child.

Being a mom has given me a greater appreciation and a deeper love for my own parents. I get inspired everyday thinking about the things I can't wait to share with Willa as well as the things my parents shared with me. I get to be a child again!!! I get to rediscover the world again!!! However, my challenge is to not get ahead of myself...it's hard for me to pace myself because there is so much of the world I want to show her right now!!! It's hard to stay in the moment, I find myself getting excited about doing things with her in the future that I miss out on what is happening right now.  There is such an excitement of a new day where I get to help her learn new things!!! It has inspired me to educate myself more, as I want to fulfill her physical and developmental needs that are changing by the millisecond!!!! It has made me want to be the best version of myself for her. This is a constant challenge. She reminds me of my values and who I am at my core.
Luke and Bre:
It is the best and without a doubt the HARDEST thing I've ever done. I love the challenge of trying to make everyday fun and stimulating for my kids. Parenting tests my creativity, patience and yet, never amazes me how much love I can feel for another person. To be able to see these little pieces of perfect develop their own personalities and all the while my job is to try and teach them to be good, kind, loving and compassionate people. To hear my kid say "please" and "thank you" to a complete stranger without being prompted feels like such a WIN. The days are long and the months seem to fly by and day in and day out, without fail, I realize that kids are born to LOVE. They are programmed to know nothing other than LOVE. I realize as a mom how many amazing people we have in our lives that love our kids and how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love and support.

Adam and Tracy:

Things that inspire my parenting:  
-Being away from my kids and missing them
-Your Infinite Life classes
-Remembering that the days are long but the years are short
-Remembering that hard work with parenting now will pay off later when my kids are older
-Remembering that everyone deserves everything they want in life

Kam and Jamie:

Knowing that what I do and how I treat other people are teaching my kids a lot more than the words that come out of my mouth inspires my parenting. I know I don't always have the perfect way of saying something or teaching a specific lesson but I always go back to the golden rule. I try my very hardest to lead by example: focusing on giving to, listening to, and loving on others so that my kids will see how one should act. Recognizing that we can only really mess them up as kids (cause they are born so darn perfect) I'm constantly trying to stay aware of being non-judgmental, and try not to influence them with my beliefs but allow each of them to form their own beliefs and be the best person they can be. And to be honest, it also inspires me to know that no matter how hard I try, I'm going to mess up (lose my temper and yell, literally after the 30th Time of asking them to leave their dang muddy shoes outside), but the best part is that kids are the quickest to forgive and love me anyway (thank God). 
We had a great speaker in church a few weeks ago that said something that resonated with me - he said, we have no right to be in self-pity when there is so much hurt in the world - and then he quoted the great John Wooden and said, "MAKE EACH DAY YOUR MASTERPIECE". Bottom line, we are all so blessed to have the families that we do, healthy kids, live where we do, and have all the love that surrounds us. That should be inspiring enough to go out and be the GOOD each day and live life to its fullest with no regrets, with kindness and respect for all. And teach our kids those same values along the way.
So there it is... I am so honored, blessed and inspired to call these people my sons, daughter in laws, niece and nephew.

Some Tips on Inspiration:

R. Kay Green wrote a blog, 'What is the true meaning of Inspiration?'
Here are 3 steps to inspiring others:
  1. Act and Show
  2. Provide Others with a Blueprint
  3. Become a Mentor
On a personal note, one way I was able to bring back my inspiration in those days where I found myself overwhelmed, yelling and being grouchy with my kids was at night, when they were finally asleep, I would go into their rooms and look at their angelic faces. Every single time a wave of love, inspiration and joy would make itself known to me again.

I now invite each of you to take a moment to reflect on what inspires you along with what will be your inspiration for 2017.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Value in Volunteering with Your Family

We are entering the holiday season, a time of family rituals that you make look forward to all year long. One family holiday ritual that you may not have considered is volunteering. Volunteering creates unity, builds team, and opens your heart to your community and those in need.  It teaches your children compassion and empathy.  Here is an terrific article provided by Mother Daughter Book Club on the benefits of volunteering and how to find an organization that matches your family's values and interests.

Thinking about volunteering with your children but not sure if it's right for your family? Consider that volunteering has been shown to not only teach children compassion for others, it can also boost their self-confidence, help them learn new skills, and help them meet people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you look for projects your family can get involved in.
Make sure the activity is good for the age of your child. Even younger kids can help organize a neighborhood blanket and towel drive for an animal welfare agency or collect canned goods for the food bank. Your kids also may be willing to give up gently used books or toys they have outgrown. When possible, bring your kids with you when you drop off items you have collected so they can see who benefits.
Consider these three broad categories when looking for places to volunteer: human welfare, environmental welfare, and animal welfare. Choose what most interests your family, and you are more likely to have your kids get excited about volunteering.
Think about volunteering more than once with the same organization so you can see the changes your work makes over time. For instance, if you join a work party at a local park several times, when you visit the park afterward you may be able to see others enjoying the trees you planted or the paths you cleared.
No sure how to find opportunities in your area? Here's a list of national organizations that list opportunities searchable by zip code and interest area:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lessons from this Election

On Tuesday, we experienced an unprecedented election following a highly charged, seemingly endless presidential campaign.  The single piece of clarity that I had in the fog on Wednesday morning was that how we as parents responded to our children about the election results was vitally important .  There are many lessons there for our children and ultimately for us.

Handling Winning and Losing
What we model for our children when we win and when we lose becomes their understanding of civility and sportsmanship.  Celebrate victories with integrity, compassion, and kindness.  Examine losses with confidence, curiosity, and caring for yourself and others.  This election does not change who you are.  It does not change your vision for your family, your community, and your country. 

Handling Feelings
It is important to experience your emotions about the outcome of the election.  Feel your feelings.  If your candidate did not win, allow yourself time to grieve the loss.  If you feel sad, cry.  Let your children see your sadness.  Assure them you are OK and that they are safe.  Let them know that you are simply feeling sad right now and it will not last forever.  

If you feel angry, feel it deeply.  Examine where you feel powerless.   Then remind yourself of what Maria Shriver read from Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty in a video that she posted the day after the election – “Our leaders got confused, so we are all leaders now.  They told us there was nothing we could do.  They were wrong.  When we tell ourselves there is nothing we can do, we are wrong.”   

Whatever emotions you are feeling, feel them, and let them go.  As Pamela Dunn, author of It’s Time to Look Inside: To See Yourself and Everyone Through the Lens of Magnificence, says, “Feelings are meant to be felt, not necessarily expressed.”   I invite you to read Pam’s book and to check out any of the courses from Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company for more about experiencing and expressing your emotions.   

Create a space for your children to experience their emotions.  Talk about your feelings and ask them about theirs.  Make this a conversation that will unfold over days and weeks.   

Staying Centered in Your Values
Use this time to reaffirm and stay centered in your values.  Talk with your children about the values that you share with your candidate.  Discuss your family values.  Talk about how to live from your values in your daily life.

My friend, Catherine, recently created a manifesto.  She began with her personal Love Manifesto, which included revealing that “Sometimes, I am mean, nasty, judgmental, and treat others poorly.”  She went on to accept and love those parts of herself as well as the parts that are easier to love.  She closed by saying, “It is only through the sum of my parts and the entirety of my being that I can say…I am a love warrior and I am magnificent.”   She then applied that to our nation by writing the following manifesto for our country:

“If we, as a nation, can understand this in the core of our hearts, 
If we, as a nation, can love and accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, and 
If we, as a nation, know that all of our parts have helped us get where we are today and will help us be a better version of ourselves tomorrow, 
Then we will come together, stronger and more loving than ever before.”

Consider writing your own family’s manifesto or living by Catherine’s.  It will allow you, your family, and all of us to rise.

Staying Involved
Teach your children that they can continue to move the world forward through supporting their friends and community.  You can model that for them by staying involved or by getting involved.  Contribute to your community as a family by volunteering with organizations that share your values.

Read the book Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty with your children, and practice acts of kindness and beauty. Begin to notice those acts being done by others and point them out to your children.  Ask them to begin noticing, too.  

Facing the Fear of What We Imagined Would Happen
We live surrounded by a media that feeds us sound bites.  We do not know the complete, complex human beings running for office.  From the snippets we see, we label them, judge them, and imagine the worst.  We develop a fear of what could happen if they won.  If your candidate did not win, those fears are coming to fruition.   How do you handle that and teach your children to handle it?  Here are a few ways:
  • Be willing to be wrong – Open a space, even if it is initially a tiny space, that you may be wrong about the winner and what he will do so that you are willing to give him a chance to succeed
  • See what is positive in the winner – Practice seeing one thing, even if it is initially a tiny thing, that is positive about the winner
  • Talk to people who voted for the winning candidate and seek to understand their reasons and feelings  – Make sure that you do this from a place of curiosity and do not engage in pointing out how they are wrong
  • Explain to your children that not every person who voted for the winner embraces the beliefs he professed and that there was something else more important to them
  • Have a conversation with your children about misinterpreting anger for authenticity or power when it is actually the opposite – Introduce the concept that kindness is a strength and that authenticity doesn’t mean being disrespectful or uncivil
  • Practice focusing on what you want to occur rather than focusing on what you do not want – What you focus on expands and focusing on your desires allows you much more flexibility and creativity
Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs, recently wrote, “I’m worried because millions of people now seem to believe that [the winner’s] supporters are racist, xenophobic, and uneducated misogynists. I'm worried because despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them.”  Again, talk to people.  Connect on a feeling level.  Seek to understand over seeking to be right.

Talking about the Bullying Behavior of the Winner
Of all of the leaders that children typically look up to, President of the United States is at the top of the list.  In this election, children have seen disrespectful behavior shown by the winner of the election toward women, minorities, immigrants, and the disabled throughout the campaign.  How do we teach children about inclusiveness, compassion, and justice when our President Elect has not displayed those values?  How do we explain the divide between having seen those behaviors and the fact that he was elected to the highest office in our country, an office children assume is held by someone who exemplifies our highest principles?
  • Without explaining away or dismissing the behaviors that you do not like, discuss the ways you would have liked him to have behaved
  • Explain that all famous people – including politicians, presidents, basketball players, actors, musicians – are not necessarily our mentors or heroes, and then discuss who their heroes are and the characteristics that they admire, focusing on how they want to be
  • Discuss the concept of accountability – that people are responsible for their behavior and the consequences of their behavior – and how that applies to the president elect’s behavior (such as the loss of respect and lack of trust)
  • Discuss how adults can choose bullying behavior and it doesn’t make it right
  • Explain that this election was not typical and that you feel equally confused, again emphasizing that the majority of people voted for him in spite of those behaviors not because of them (something was more important to them) 
Dr. Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women, recently wrote, “Instead of being left with a sense of disillusionment, encourage kids to become people of character who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of what everyone else is saying or doing. Hopefully they will do as I say and not as the politicians have done.”

Supporting the Leader
In our parenting courses, we teach the concept of ‘supporting the leader.’  That leader may be you or it may be one of your children taking charge of the dinner menu.  A part of building team and increasing success is to support the leader.  Our success as a nation depends upon our leader’s success.  Teach your children that desiring your leader to do well is important.  Supporting the leader does not mean that you agree with everything he proposes or says. It does mean being cooperative – not compliant – and holding your leader accountable.  It means influencing for the greater good.  Although you may disagree with the leader, it does not mean being an obstructionist. 

With your children, point out how you do that in your family and encourage more of it as we move forward. 

Moving Forward
In a recent post, Desmond Tutu said, “Each side now must come together and realize that you share a greater goal than victory, which is the development of a country that serves all of its people and that leads the world to a greater destiny. The only way to peace and healing is to turn to one another and try to understand what motivates such fear and anger. The anger over inequality and injustice, whether in America or South Africa, is real and must be addressed, for a country is only as strong as its weakest and most vulnerable citizens.”

Our most vulnerable citizens are our children.  Conversations about the election, including listening intently to what your children care about and what they feel, can re-establish balance after this tumultuous campaign season.  How you respond sets the stage!  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Halloween Fun: The Toddler Edition

Many thanks to Amy Webb of The Thoughtful Parent for this article on Halloween and toddlers. Our own memories of fun Halloween's past and our desire for our children to have a great time may keep us from seeing how scary Halloween might be for a toddler.  Amy's suggestions can make for a very happy celebration for your entire family. 

By Amy Webb 

Fall also means fun holidays like Halloween. Most adults love Halloween and older kids too, however, it can be a little intimidating for toddlers. As adults, we often ramp up our expectations for cute costumes and picture-friendly moments that we will never forget. From a toddlers perspective, Halloween is odd--talking to strangers at houses, it's dark outside, and everyone is dressed up in weird (or scary) costumes. Here are a few ideas that will hopefully help make Halloween enjoyable and prevent some meltdowns from your toddler:

1. Explain the activities in advance. As much as you can explain to your toddler what's going to happen in advance if you are taking them trick-or-treating. Talk about that it might be dark outside, that people will be dressed up in costumes, etc.

2. Plan Halloween activities at a toddler-friendly time. Yes, we all love trick-or-treating, but if you wait until your toddler's bedtime to do it, it won't be much fun for anyone. It's okay to go out while it's still light outside or just go to a Halloween party instead. Many libraries host toddler-friendly Halloween parties during the daytime hours.

3. Don't stress over manners. We all want our kids to say "thank you" and "you're welcome" but in the midst of Halloween fun, might not be the best time to enforce those rules. It's great to encourage it, but if your toddler is overwhelmed by the situation, she probably won't remember her "please" and "thank you's."

4. Have low expectations. That super cute costume you bought a few weeks ago may not bring the same joy to your toddler that it does to you. When my son was 3, he wanted to dress up like Woody from Toy Story...until Halloween night. Then he refused to wear that costume and instead wanted to wear his Superman t-shirt with cape attached. I was disappointed but he never new the difference. He loved being Superman (with just a t-shirt) and all the neighbors thought he was adorable.