Thursday, July 10, 2014

Parenting: 12 Ways To Have Happy Kids

We all want happier children, but how do we do it? Here are 12 ways you can raise happier children.

1. Stop Yelling At Them.

Children live what they are taught. If you yell when you get frustrated with them, they will yell at you when they get frustrated.
They will also yell at teachers, principals, grandparents, and all the people you will be completely mortified to have your children yelling at.

2. Praise Them.

Praise them because they want your approval and attention and happiness. It makes them feel secure and loved.
Focus on anything, even if they brushed their hair or teeth on their own, and tell them it makes you happy. Tell them you appreciate it when they pick up their things. Tell them you love it when they help you clean up.

3. Play with them.

Play allows them to get out stress and anxiety. Active play keeps them in shape. Role play helps them learn to handle situations. Imaginative play helps them learn creativity and problem solving.
Get out your favorite board or card games. Fire up the video games. Take them to the park. Spend just 15 minutes a day playing with your child. You've got 15 minutes for your own child, right? Teach them how to play chess, or tennis, or how to jump rope. Show them you can hula hoop, or roller skate, or have fun, too.

4. Routines.

Children need the security of routines every day. It also prepares them for the future. Think about how you get ready for the day. Do you get up, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, grab your keys and coffee, and head out? That's a routine that keeps you organized and on track. Your children need routines for the same reasons. Tackle the hard stuff, the things they hate, like brushing teeth, getting dressed, or cleaning their room in a routine with a set time limit or task limit, and a reward at the end. You'll see a vast improvement in their behavior.

5. Model Behaviors.

Be their role model. Hold open doors, thank people, return your shopping carts, offer to help a neighbor with your children there so they can see what kind and compassionate people do.

6.One-on-One Time.

No matter how many children you have, make a point to spend time with each of them one-on-one. Take them out to eat, just the two of you, or play a two player game, or hole yourself up in their room and just listen and talk. Make their time with you meaningful. You don't have to be your child's best friend, but you can be a listening ear. For that, you can't be the yelling, domineering, avoiding parent.

7. Share Your Own Emotional Struggles.

Open up to your kids about things make you feel and how you deal with them.
Guy cut you off in traffic? Tell them that when people drive recklessly and endanger your life and those of your children whom you love, you feel very angry. Instead of showing it by tailgating, honking maliciously, or cursing, you could accept that he is in more of a hurry than you are and that driving defensively will save your life.

8. Let Them Fail.

Don't do your children's homework for them. What good does it do them of you are up past midnight covered in glitter and paint while they wake up to a magically created project? What happens when they have to describe what they did in high school and they didn't do half the work?
As a teacher and parent, please do me this favor and let them do what they can on their own. It's their grade. They need to learn to earn it. Besides, chances are, one day they will take a math class beyond your ability. What then? :)

9. Don't Compare Them to Others.

I know it is easy to fall into the trap with other parents where you ask about school and how their kid is doing because it is small talk and the only thing you have in common, but don't start comparing kids.
Your child hears that he or she is not as good as another, or that you want them to be better. They feel less loved, and useless. That is not a happy child.

10. Keep Adult Issues Behind Closed Doors.

Please do not talk about how you need to skip paying this bill this week in front of your child. They have enough stress in their lives without having to worry about adult issues, too. It's okay to tell them if you lose your job and will be looking for a new one, that they won't be able to take that vacation or go to camp. But issues with family members, money, or adult topics need to be behind closed doors. Children pick up on things and take things to heart way too easily.

11. Give Them Responsibility.

Teaching them responsibility is the biggest, next to accountability, lesson we can teach. Reward them with money, treats, or special things when they do show responsibility. Take away money, treats, or special things when they fail to do them. Having to hand back dollar bills that they have earned because they failed to cooperate with a sibling will make them think twice about fighting in the future (for example).
Please give your child chores to do, deadlines to accomplish tasks like telling you what they want to put on the grocery list this week or they don't get it, and have them help you do things around the house.

12. Give Them Choices.

Please give your child choices from what to wear, what to eat, and what outings to go on. Making decisions is a huge part of adult life. If you keep telling them what to do, they will be frustrated and also never learn the freedom to exercise their decision-making abilities.

Focus on one at a time or many of these 12 to improve the relationship between you and your children. Sit down with them and discuss as a family the areas to work on. Including them in this decision making process holds you all accountable and establishes a sense of community rather than an 'adults change the rules again and don't follow through' situation. :)

Monday, July 7, 2014

How I Enjoy My One Full Month of Summer

I have finally settled into the one full month of summer and I made a few promises to myself.

1. Do as little school-related as possible.  Sure, I am looking for great bargains on supplies, and I always have my classroom to-do list in the back of my mind, but overall, I am pushing those thoughts aside if possible. If the urge to research something or jot down a note comes, I am doing it, however I am limiting myself.

2. Make a point to play with my kids. I just made them a mini croquet field out of pool noodles. We used play golf clubs and little kick balls to navigate it. It was fun. We are going to the county fair later to ride rides. We just spent 2 days with family eating, playing, and talking. July is going to be about parenting and taking breaks/time for myself.

3. Do something creative. I was looking up art yesterday on pinterest for inspiration and I found the picture that is inspiring the color palette for my living room overhaul.

Autumn Fog — PALETTE KNIFE Oil Painting On Canvas By Leonid Afremov - Size: 20" x 36" 

Click on the link to see more of his work, as I LOVE it. Also, I want this painting if anyone is feeling exceptionally generous! :)

I am in the mood to paint something. I might also do some doodling and art journaling. I might have the boys paint with me. Whatever I do, or if I do them all, I will do them because I am free to do them.

July is also JulNoWriMo, and I am writing. That takes creative energy, too. So when I am not painting, I may be writing.

I may also be doing some cross stitch. I have a counted cross stitch I have been working on for oh, 12 years. :)
Here you can see my progress, and how large it is.

4. Do something active, or a workout, every day! I can't go back to work all flabby and tiring easily. I may have to wrestle with students whose muscles don't cooperate when dressing, lift students who can't sit up, help support a student in the middle of a seizure, or hold back students who want to run off. I may also be challenged to a relay race in the gym. :) Plus, it helps me feel good about myself. That's the whole point, really.

We have a park nearby, relatives with a nice pool, and there are plenty of videos on Daily Hiit to show me some new and fun exercises. The elliptical is always ready to go, not to mention the yoga mat.

Let's Do This, July!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Advice For Living A Fulfilled Life

Tying in with my Top 3 Goals of the Summer, I read a great post on 10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s full of great advice from wise sages who have been there and looked back.

While my number one was Exercise, their number one is Saving.

In past blog posts, I have lamented over my monitary woes. It feels whiny and childish to read over them. I deleted several, but kept a few just to remind myself that I was whiny and childish.

Still, I must have been on the right track, because so many wise people shared that their life would have been a lot easier had they saved for retirement, or even for emergencies.

One huge catastrophe. Loss of job. Identity theft. Natural Disaster. Insurance isn't completely enough. There has to be some emergency money saved up. What is the rule of thumb, at least 3 months of your bills?

So, this is a goal for me. It is probably a goal for the majority of you, in your 30s or not!

Number two on their top 10 was health. Of course. You've only got one body.

The next two are about relationships. I address the topic of relationships with my Goal Number 2: Planning, because I am thinking about my family and when to see them and things to do with them. Family is number 9 on the list, addressing more than just your children, but parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Summer is a great time for family reunions and building memories, reconnecting, and not holding grudges.

A huge section of the list is devoted to talents and dreams, being yourself and loving what you do for a living, and taking chances. I suppose that really is what your 30s are for. Sure, you are ready for a career to begin saving for retirement, but you want to love what you do and be happy. This is a decade of your life, after all. Don't waste it working for the man in a nowhere kind of job. I don't address this in my summer goals, because I am on summer break from my job, teaching. I am happy with teaching, and I don't think it is a nowhere kind of job, but my real passion is writing. What I have to do is remember to devote time to writing and see where that takes me while I work my job and serve children with special needs.

Lastly is a plea to be kind and respectful to yourself. This is addressed in my Mental Health section under having fun. You can't have fun if you hate yourself and everything about yourself. It's like how you can't sneeze and keep your eyes open.

Want to know what to do to find your happiness?
Being Honest, Kind, Respectful, and having positive self talk is addressed in detail in my wordpress blog, "Spoonfuls of Sugar: A Happiness Journal" during the month of July 2014. Expect one post a day. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Top 3 Goals for the Summer

Summer Break is basically a long stay-cation. While I do have two tutoring jobs and I am playing chauffeur for the oldest's summer police camp, the rest of my days are free to plan as I see fit. Speaking of fit, that brings me to some summer goals I have because while I may have 8 weeks until I go back to work, those 8 weeks will fly by! I want to have something to show for it.

Goal #1:  Physical Health - Exercise

I need to remember to keep exercising this summer. I have 8 weeks to new habits. What could you do with 8 weeks?

Some tips for adding healthful choices to your summer:

1. Get active! - Make a point to do something physical every day; a Hiit workout, a long walk, pull ups on the playground, a game of soccer with your kids. Do something every day to get your heart rate up.

2. Meal choices - Sometimes it is way too hot to cook! Make a point, however, to get plenty of vegetables, even on vacation.

3. Snack choices - If you decide to have a picnic, take a day trip, or even while on a traditional vacation, pack healthy snacks. I love granola bars, fresh fruit, and raw veggies. Raisins, trail mix, or some dry cereal (not the sugary kind), are good, too.

4. Drink choices - Drink lots of water. If you eat out, dine in, take a hike, or wake up, drink water. Not only does it fight heat exhaustion and do wonders for your health, it is cheaper than sodas in restaurants. I'm all about saving money!

Besides, American Ninja Warrior looks so fun!

Goal #2: Emotional Health - Planning

I already mentioned that I have lots of time to fill. There will be hot days with lots of down time. The month of July is pretty wide open as of this point. So, to avoid depression, doldrums, or lack of motivation, the key for me is to plan out projects, fun times, and things to look forward to all summer long.

One great project idea is to make things with the kids. I love looking up ideas for summer fun play, like these that include water bombs from sponges, pool noodle croquet,  making a fairy garden cheaply, giant bubbles, and sun ovens.

I also look for educational activities like teaching my kids to cook, exploring nature, photography and scrapbooking, arts and crafts, and science experiments (like this).While they are not looking forward to 'school with Mom', I would be remiss if I did not keep their brains engaged.

Planning is also the key to tackling the major house cleaning I need to do, like purging items for a yard sale, deep cleaning areas rarely touched, and re-organizing or re-purposing items for a fresh feel.

Meanwhile, I am keeping my classroom in the back of my mind, because I need to make huge changes in there for the fall.

Goal #3: Mental Health - Have fun!

Boy do I need to unwind! I like to have fun. I might dance, do some fun crafts, write the next greatest novel, or sit by my new fire bowl at night and watch the boys catch fireflies. I might read, or go for a picnic, or bike ride. I can unwind in a calm or active way. Sometimes exercise relieves stress better than a relaxing bath.

Whatever you need to do to clear your head, do it! I find that if I do a monotonous or repetitive task, like vacuuming, counted cross stitch, or am in a place where I can't get distracted from my thoughts, like the bathroom or the car without music, then I begin to muddle through life's issues and problem solve, or have creative ideas. (caffeine also works, but not recommended :D)

Make time to make memories!

Getting Ready for a Yard Sale: Purging and Emotional Detachment

I told my sister we needed to get together and have a big yard sale. Still have no idea WHEN or WHERE the sale will occur, but I'm getting ready anyway.

Gearing up for this yard sale event, I watched many episodes of Clean House.
It took some perspective shifting to begin to view what I wanted my house to look like without extra clutter. Niecy Nash spoke to me several times through the highly scripted adventures of the show!

For many people, purging your treasures is hard. Cleaning up, clearing out, and organizing a space that contains items full of memories often dredges up emotions. It is difficult to separate yourself from the emotional ties to people, events, and moments in your life that signify who you are or who you want to be, the best times or the times you want to have in your life, and the people you love.

I started this week in my youngest son's room. I knew he was outgrowing some books and toys. It is also easier to clean up someone else's space rather than your own. :)

The best thing to do is to have your children help you by telling you what they feel they are too big for. What is always amazing is that they can detach themselves from their items so easily. "I'm too big for Cars, now Mommy." It's the adult who sniffles and thinks, 'but you were a toddler when you played with this!' He started my piles of salable items off right. Two big containers of toys and books, plus his entire bedding set.

One thing I disliked as a child was my mother storming into my bedroom with a large trash bag and making things disappear. I wanted to have control! I will not take that control from my boys. Instead, I will teach them how to organize their spaces, display their prized possessions, and get rid of things that are not used and not respected. "Everything has a place and (most of the time) it gets put back in its place!" (Right?!?!)

Then I moved on to a space which has become a junk dumping ground. It was easy to work here because I had already decided on a few things in there that I knew could go. Detachment happened long before the work. I purged my collection of dolphin figurines and old CDs and cassettes. (Yeah, I still have some.)
I also began on my bookshelves and DVDs.

I found a lot of dust! In fact, if things were too dusty, I forced myself to really consider whether it was something worth hanging onto.

They say to ask these questions:

  • Do you love it?
  • Do you need it?
  • Have you used it and how recently?
  • Does it make your life better?
  • Can you borrow it, rent it, store it in a cloud, or burn it? Could you buy another one if you really needed it?
  • Is it out of date or style?
  • Am I keeping it for an emotional reason?
  • What's the worst that can happen if I don't have it?

I moved on to decorative knick-knacks, and the board game closet, but I still hadn't tackled the difficult areas: clothes, scrapbooking, and holiday items. Would my mother really be that upset if I got rid of the ornaments she pawned off on me?
Probably not.

A couple of good things: since we moved one son into a new room 6 months ago, he hasn't had time to accumulate a lot of things. He needed some organization and some trash thrown out. Secondly, I had already put clothes into a pile in the winter and delivered it to Goodwill when we thought we were so over having yard sales, so our closets were pretty picked over.

Cleaning out a house for a yard sale is not a one-person thing. I need my family to pitch in. They need to go through this process, too. It is healthy. Besides, the garage is not my domain! Hubby has yet to let me down. He usually finds SOMETHING that ends up being a 'big ticket' item and sells for a chunk of change. I have no idea what that would be this year, but he will inevitably find the THING.

Until the day arrives, there is a growing pile of things I am emotionally detached from in my living room. I will continue to purge more corners and drawers and nooks and crannies until I feel successful, clean, and proud of myself for getting out the gunk. Plus, I will love my clutter-free, beautiful, house and knowing my clutter demons are conquered.