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Last year we bought a little house on a large lot in a neighbourhood we loved. We gutted it, adding two floors and digging out the basement. The whole job took eight months. My husband, our five kids, our dog and me lived in the house the whole time.
It was one wild adventure. It made us a better family and I think it made me a better person. I learned a lot about parenting, about marriage, and about kids while living in the reno zone.
There were good reasons to stay in the house. For one thing, there were no houses to rent in the area and no apartment could house our brood. We wanted the kids to settle into the neighbourhood. We wanted them to stay at their school. Despite the mayhem around them, we wanted them to continue on with all their normal activities.
Oops. I used the word “normal”. Looking back on it from the comfortable confines of my renovated house, I think the biggest lessons I learned from this adventure had to do with the words normal and change.
While living in the reno zone, we chose to recognize and embrace change. The kids, who slept on single mattresses stuck together like Scrabble pieces, knew things were different. Why hide it? There was no TV, no computer, only books and board games surrounded by tools and materials. The kids, all powerfully driven by the pursuit of fun, adapted immediately. (It took my husband a little longer.)
I learned that some things shouldn’t change. We ate every meal together, sitting around the dinner table each night reviewing our days. By the way, an unplugged table saw makes for an excellent sideboard. Bedtime is bedtime, homework is homework, and the dog needs to be walked.
By keeping the basic structure of family life together, I realized that home is simply any place where we are all living together. It was rather liberating. This is probably the best reason why living in the reno zone felt so normal.
Parents find it shocking when I give the advice ‘don’t force your child to say ‘I’m sorry’ after an incident.’ They think I am letting kids off the hook. Not true! Let me take a moment to clarify my reasons.
First, to be clear, I want your children to have good manners and develop a true sense of empathy and compassion for others. Yes, I want them to take responsibility for their actions and to make amends when someone has been wronged. All of those pursuits are important. I am only suggesting a different means and method to arrive at that end.
When parents simply force a child with the ole’ parenting chestnut, ‘Come on now, say you’re sorry,’ they invite that classic nasal and sarcastic reply, ‘I’m saaaawry’.
Step into the child’s mindset and emotional state. You can imagine that any empathy that they were feeling because of their wrong doing just flew out the window as their parents put the spotlight on them and their screw up, which is now on public display. Embarrassing.
Next, you’re commanded to apologize (as if you wouldn’t have capacity to do so of your own volition). Well, it’s humiliating and degrade, frankly.
Why They Do It:
What to Do Instead?
Summer is the perfect time for toilet training. Warm weather makes time spent without underwear a bit more pleasant—and let’s face it, pee on the lawn is better than on the floor.
Here are some points to consider:
Watching him surge powerfully through the water in the 100-metre freestyle, you might imagine Brent Hayden has always been an athlete. The truth is that as a child he struggled in just about every sport.
This Canadian Olympian is another great example of why kids need to be exposed to a variety of sports when they are small, and why parents need to keep an open mind when it comes to recognizing where their kids’ talents might be.
In a recent interview with Active for Life, Brent talked about his early love of swimming, his struggles in team sports and his inspiration to swim at the Olympics.
Q: What different sports did you play as a child?
I started playing soccer and baseball around age five, and later I played on the basketball team at my elementary school. I also played water polo for about three or four years from about age 12 to age 16. Around the same time I did karate for about five years and earned my first-degree black belt.
The truth is that I was awful at just about every sport I did, except for the water sports and karate. I was terrible at every sport outside of the pool.
When I briefly played basketball in grade seven, I only scored one basket all season. And it was an exhibition game against our own girls’ team. I mostly joined basketball because I was trying to get into the popular crowd at school, but in the end my lack of skills didn’t help me.
Q: What kept you in swimming?
I just loved to swim. I actually failed swimming lessons the first couple of times, but eventually I just found my place there.
For me, there was something about it being an individual sport. People weren’t relying on me getting the ball up the field or anything. I could just focus on my lane, and I think that’s what kept me in swimming.
Q: Do you have any memorable childhood experiences in sport?
I remember during my first or second year with the Mission Marlins Swim Club, a coach gave me one of his medals to take home for a couple of weeks. I was probably only five or six years old.
It was really special for me because I hadn’t won a race or a medal yet. But it kind of felt like it was my medal. It sort of lit a fire under me. It made me want to go out and win one of my own.
Q: Do you remember when you first began to think about the Olympics?
The first time I ever thought about the Olympics was probably grade three. The teacher was getting kids to stand up in class and say what they wanted to be when they grew up.
I stood up and said, “I want to swim in the Olympics, and I want to be a robot maker.” I think I had just recently watched the movie Short Circuit or something, and I wanted my own Johnny Five!
Q: Of your swimming achievements, which one stands out most for you?
I guess it’s pretty simple just to say that winning the gold medal at the 2007 World Championships was the best one, but it really was. It was fulfilling a promise I made to my grandfather.
Just before I left to go to Australia for the World Championships, I got the call that my grandfather was dying. I went to see him, and I sat with him as he was going in and out consciousness.
I said, ‘Grandpa, I am going to Australia tomorrow, and I am going to win you a medal.’
He passed away five days later. So winning a gold medal for me was not just about winning a gold medal—it was about fulfilling the most difficult promise that I’ll ever make to anyone in my life.
Q: Do you have any advice for children who might dream of going to the Olympics?
Just enjoy every moment and never stop having fun. I always try to have fun with my sport because my best performances are when I’m enjoying it. I actually struggle when I’m not having fun.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents looking to get their kids involved in sports?
Just open the doors for them. Just get them out there and get them to experience different sports. But at the same time, don’t pressure them into any one sport. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, they don’t. Let them find what’s right for them.
Nothing is more exciting and terrifying than the lead up to back to school: new classmates, new teacher, new subjects to learn, and for some, even a whole new school. One way to help alleviate some of these transitional stresses and ensure kids and teens have more confidence as they pick up their new books, is to keep learning over the summer. After all, it is understandable that some of the skills learned have fallen wayside—particularly in reading and writing. Jeanette Podolsky, Director of Speech Therapy Centres has some activity ideas to help you and your kids as they get back into the grind and feel confident heading back to the classroom.
‘By incorporating activities for listening, language expression, reading and writing into your daily routine, and creating a language-literacy rich environment, you can help ensure smoother transitions at school,’ says Jeanette.
Here are her tips:
Simon Says: This is a great game to sharpen many of your child’s skills; from listening to improving verbal attention and from following directions to self-regulation. Based on your child’s skill level, you can make the game easy to challenging. Start simple with one task—‘Simon says clap your hands.’ Then as each level is mastered, add a degree of difficulty,such as multi-step directions—‘Simon says take your dishes and put them on the counter.’ Or perhaps you can tease them by throwing in some directions that require good listening such as, ‘Simon says don’t clap’ or ‘Simon says tell me a word that rhymes with bat.’ With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless!
Reading together: One of the messages every parent hears from the time their child is an infant is ‘read to your little one.’ As your child grows, so too can reading time. You can work on site words, or you can encourage them to use the pictures in the book to help them tell you the story. If you want quiet reading time, ask them to predict what will happen next or when you are done ask them to recall the main ideas, characters and the plot of the story.
Junior School Age:
Name-Place-Animal-Thing: Here’s a fun group word game that stimulates vocabulary and targets literacy skills. Ask one person in the group to call out a letter of the alphabet. Then everyone takes a couple of minutes to write down a ‘name,’ a ‘place,’ an ‘animal’ and a ‘thing’ that starts with that letter. When all members in the group have finished writing down all four fields, each one calls out their list. There are many ways to build on to this game, from describing how the members of the category are related to including adjectives, verbs, synonyms and antonyms.
Young writers in the making! What did your child do this summer? Something new? Exciting? Or did they simply frolic in the sun and enjoy the laziness of no school. Whether they travelled to a new place, enrolled in a summer camp, or visited some exciting local attractions, ask your child to write about it. Support their writing with a topic and conclusion sentence (e.g., Topic sentence: ‘This summer, I had a lot of fun.’ Conclusion sentence: ‘I can’t wait for another fun-filled summer next year). Watch them as they write. If you see them struggling with their spelling, encourage them to sound out the words. Once they have finished, have them to check their work for punctuation and proper capitalization.
Middle School Age:
Movie Reviews: Challenge your child to summarize a recent movie they have seen. Not only will this activity target organization of thoughts (beginning, middle and end), but it will also help with verbal memory, descriptive writing and presentation skills. Remember—encourage them to provide reasoning for their thoughts and likes or dislikes.
Summer trip comparison: Wonder what your child liked about their summer holiday? Here is your chance to find out. Over dinner or some quiet time, have a discussion with your children where you compare this summer to last. Encourage them to talk about what was liked or not liked and how they can make next summer even more memorable. This activity uses comparison skills, problem-solving and generation of ideas for next summer!
Making the transition from the lazy, dog days of summer back to a new school year can be a challenge for both parents and children. Incorporating some of these activities into your family’s daily routine throughout the end of summer can make for a smoother transition back into school.
After a long hot summer, it can be tough to get kids back into a routine and focused on homework. But homework is a key part of your child’s education, and it’s important that they not only complete it, but also understand what they’ve learned.
Studies show that children’s achievements in school improve with increased parent involvement in education. So get involved in your kids’ schoolwork—you might even learn something new too!
ABC Life Literacy Canada offers 10 tips on how to make homework part of your daily routine:
For other family literacy tips and activities, visit FamilyLiteracyDay.ca.
There’s something you and I likely have in common: a familiarity with the well-known children’s book The Little Engine that Could.
I’ll admit it’s a cheerful and uplifting story. We enjoyed it as children and now we read it to our own.
But here’s the thing. The message, ‘If we try, and we try, we’ll eventually reach our goal,’ has not always reflected my reality.
My experience is that sometimes we try and we try, and we end up falling on our face. And so do our kids.
I’ve thought long and hard about the messages we teach our children (and ultimately maintain as our core beliefs as adults). To expect our efforts will always result in consistent success is misleading at best. We’re setting kids up to have unrealistic expectations that life should and will be perfect, and that’s not the real world.
The message of persistence is a great one, but there’s a lesson our children are missing: how to rise from failure. Defeat happens to the best of us, so why not offer our kids the tools with which to accept, learn and grow from it?
The age-old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ needed to be looked at. So I decided to write a book about it.
The book is called Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands. It’s a modern day story about the search for happiness, and one girl’s discovery that, even in the face of failure, peace can be found.
As adults we have the power to nurture children’s growth. We can start by teaching kids that it’s okay to fail—that just because they have a failure, it doesn’t mean that they are a failure. By learning how to accept and learn from failure, they’ll be better equipped to achieve the happiness and success we so want for them in the first place.
My sense has always been that if I had known some of what I know now, at a younger age, life could have been easier. Perhaps I would have been a little less afraid to fail, and a little more resilient when I did. Our thought patterns strengthen as we age, so let’s support children to create a healthy framework from the start. This was my goal in creating Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands.
That children will be loved regardless of what they can or cannot do is a message I want the children in my life to know, and is one that I want your kids to know. My hope is to inspire you as you inspire the children in your life.
5 Points for Parents: How to Prepare for Defeat and Deepen Your Child’s Resilience
1. Celebrate effort not outcome. Praise and congratulate that they’ve tried, irrespective of the outcome.
2. Children emulate our behaviour. Share your failures and show that it’s okay to fail when you do.
3. Practice failure. Play a game of chance and discuss what they can tell themselves when they fail, and what compassionate words can they offer opponents when they win.
4. Emphasize their learning successes. When a child is distraught about what they can’t do, remind them of all the wonderful things they CAN do and have LEARNED to do, and the wonderful qualities that make them who they ARE.
5. Help your kids to feel safe when they fail. Make it clear that they are loved and valued regardless of what they can or cannot do.
If you agree that these are important messages to share with our children, please support the Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands campaign.
Children are born not wanting more then to be loved, given nourishment and kept safe and warm. Most parents do a wonderful job of meeting these needs and our children’s genuine gratitude is reflected in their loving hugs, smiles and giggles. As they grow and are exposed to other influencers, they begin looking beyond their needs into the world of wants. And if you’re anything like most parents wanting to keep your children smiling and loving, you may give in to many of their ‘gimmes.’ You may even over indulge them.
Fast forward to a frightening awakening—you begin to see your children as spoiled brats. Never satisfied with what they have, always wanting bigger and better, wanting what they say all the other kids in the neighbourhood have and punishing you by keeping their distance when they don’t get what they want the minute they want it. But wait a minute—are they to blame? Don’t we have to take responsibility for creating these monsters? With the best of intentions, who can blame us for wanting to be loved? Our children have been shown how not to be satisfied with what they have by getting too much and too often. With so much at their disposal, things lose their meaning. Not just material things, but even the valuable time and effort we give of ourselves.
Just following our direction to say “thank you” doesn’t guarantee our children truly are. However, a genuine feeling of gratefulness will generally lead to growing up happier. Feeling grateful for what they have affects their overall sense of well being. Looking around and feeling a sense of gratitude for what surrounds them in the present is the best “present” of all. Feeling grateful for being able to afford certain luxuries, for every day simple acts such as being able to reach into the fridge for food or switching on the furnace to keep warm are very important.
So, what’s a parent to do? If your child spends more time nagging for something than she does enjoying it once it’s received, is it too late to reverse the situation? No. Harder, maybe—but not impossible. The trick is not to go from all to nothing. Once you’ve identified the problem, work at changing things gradually. Next birthday or holiday, instead of buying lots of gifts, think of buying fewer items that are not so extravagant. Consider purchasing or creating an experience that you can enjoy as a family instead.
As well, make sure that you are modelling appreciation for what you have too. Say what you are grateful for out loud—your child’s initiative for putting his dish in the dishwasher, a loving family, the ability to afford a warm pair of winter boots. Don’t lecture about starving children in Africa but create opportunities for your child to see people in less fortunate positions. Stop to speak to a homeless person on the street. He or she may not be so scary after all. Your child may learn a whole lot from this stranger without your having to say anything.
The bottom line is—the more we give, the more our children want. The more they want, the less grateful they are for what they have. So the next time you feel guilty about not giving into a want, consider that you’re doing your child a favour.
When the holidays come, we feel obliged to make that once seasonal pilgrimage to our supposed church/synagogue/temple. That’s when we’re reminded that another year has passed, and gulp, weren’t we supposed to be doing something about our children’s religious education?
Let’s face it—a lot of young families don’t do ‘religion’ anymore for a lot of different reasons. There has been a decline in both attendance and membership at churches and other places of worship over the last decade. This means a growing number of kids have no sense of affiliation with a faith or a faith community at all.
Extremists argue both sides—some stating that parents who don’t bring faith to their children’s upbringing should be deemed ‘negligent.’ At the polar end, some hold the opinion that parents who force their faith on their impressionable child are being abusive, comparing it to mind control and brainwashing.
Many of the world religions have core themes taught through different accounts of history and story narratives but virtually every religion has a version of ‘the golden rule’ whether it is Christianity’s ‘In everything, do onto others as you would have done unto you, for this is the law and the prophets’ or Buddhism’s ‘Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.’
Regardless of our individual views, we have to at least teach children to be tolerant of religious differences. Our society is multicultural and diverse. Parents of two different religious backgrounds can model how to live with this difference. Bottom line: don’t fight about how to love!
So we can’t leave our children’s moral and ethical development to chance. Have you got a plan at all? If not—work on one.
However you spend the holidays—Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Diwali, Kwanza and more!
With scary and traumatizing events in the news, such as school shootings, your children may be frightened about their safety. If you’re wondering what’s best to do to ease their child’s fears, here are my five points for building your approach:
1. Filter and Process Information
Use your own adult wisdom to properly screen the traumatic information coming to your child to ensure it’s age appropriate. I suggest that for all but the most mature children, you simply turn off the radio and TV. Even if you think your toddler doesn’t understand what is being said on the TV, the visual images are frightening. You can get information on the event yourself later by reading about it online, or by watching the news after the kids go to bed. Discussions are less likely to incite fear and anxiety than a news report will.
Even with the TV off, children will be hearing about the news through social media. With kids going online at younger ages than ever before, you will have to be prepared to explain, discuss and help make sense of what they are hearing. Make your parental presence felt as that will create feelings of security.
2. Don’t Lie
When discussing difficult matters, whether it is a random shooting, an abduction, an earthquake or someone’s cancer diagnosis, it’s important that you don’t lie. A child will likely uncover a lie and feel betrayal, lack trust in you and they’ll wonder what is wrong with them that their own parents didn’t trust them enough to tell them the truth. Instead, using the screening of information to decide which truthful elements are age appropriate to share. For a young child, you may simply say ‘something tragic happened at a very big mall, and many people are upset because a person died and many many people were scared.’ For an older child, ‘There was a random shooting at a food court and someone got killed. A lot of people were there and so it caused a big public panic. A lot of people were hurt and traumatized.’
3. Help Them Feel Safe
The bigger job is to help our children make sense of the random act of terror and restore a sense of calm security. Parents should reassure their children that Canada is one of the safest countries to live in, and that we have a very low crime rate. In fact, these types of random acts of violence are so rare that statistically speaking, it’s far more dangerous driving to the mall than the chance of being shot at while eating in the food court. I’ve also told my kids that if they don’t get involved in drugs and gangs, and if they pick a good life mate, they have just ruled out most of the reasons there are shootings. It’s more likely you’d be hit by lightning than a stray bullet. Lately, the news has been particularly gruesome so this is also a good time to discuss media and how sensational stories capture more ratings than the more mundane ‘firefighter gets cat down from tree’ type story. If media were properly balanced, we would all see that humanity is largely full of safe, loving people who do good deeds for one another. That is the more accurate depiction of our society.
4. Your Attitude is Infectious
Your children observe your reactions as a barometer for knowing how they should be feeling about events. You cannot properly calm your child’s fears if you are still worried yourself. Deliver your messages with a calm reassurance and don’t over protect or helicopter parent.
5. Respond to Needs for Extra Cuddles
It is natural for a child to become extra clingy when they have experienced some extreme stressor or trauma. They might even act baby-like in order to invite extra nurturing. Be generous with your love and cuddles. Touch has a powerful ability to release a cascade of chemicals in the body that helps relieve stress. Just be sure you don’t alter some basic limits and boundaries or feel pity. Pity sends the message, ‘I don’t believe you can manage,’ when in fact we want our children to know that we believe they can! That is a vote of confidence which builds their self-esteem and sense of security.
The death of a pet can be an experience of sorrow, confusion and growth. If you’ve never discussed the life cycle before, it can be tricky to know where to start.
Pointing out happenings in nature on a regular basis is a great way to encourage discussion around all parts of the life cycle, such as when the seasons change or when a plant or insect dies.
If the subject comes about suddenly, here are some valuable tips to help you begin:
Don’t be surprised if they play ‘death’ for a while. Also, it can be helpful to make a memory book about the pet or to do a small ceremony to mark the death of the pet. Your child might have some wonderful ideas about how to do just that.
I have advised parents-to-be for many years on how to prepare their dogs for the arrival of a new baby, but it wasn’t until the birth of my daughter Alexandra that I had the opportunity to put the advice into practice with my own animals.
You can avoid potential problems by using the tips below to help your dog become more comfortable when your baby arrives:
Baby proofing your dog is all about making that dog feel comfortable and safe with the new changes your baby will bring to your life. Observing your dog’s reactions around other children will give you an indication of what you can expect when your baby arrives.
Victoria will be speaking at the All About Pets Show on March 29–31 at the International Centre (6900 Airport Road).
When Chloe, my twelve year old daughter was about four, she stood in front of her full length mirror admiring her reflection. When she saw me standing in the doorway, she smiled and said, ‘I love myself.’ My heart was filled to overflowing as I heard her expression of self love and I thought about how great it would be to stay little forever.
As we age, it’s often difficult to maintain those loving feelings. I’m thinking about my twenty year old who when she was seventeen, was more inclined to focus on the pimples on her face and her gangly limbs as she struggled through typical egocentric adolescent angst about what others might think of the way she looked.
Now, at age 20, Talia understands society’s pre occupation with how we look on the outside but also realizes the importance of loving her inner beauty.
Healthy self esteem is when we look at the people around us but don’t think of ourselves as any better or worse than anyone else. It’s also about loving yourself from the inside out. The kind of love that allows for age spots, acne and other imperfections. The kind of love that allows you to shine and says that you are proud of who you are.
If you believe that it is important for your child to love him or herself from the inside out, then you may be interested in the tips below:
How do you show that you love yourself? What do your children hear and see when you’re standing in front of your mirror? Do they hear you say, ‘I’m so fat. I look terrible in this dress.’ Or do they hear you say, ‘I like the colour of my shirt against my skin.’ On other occasions, do they hear you say, ‘I’m so clumsy. I’m always spilling things.’ Or do they hear you say, ‘Oops, I’ll get a rag to clean this up.’ Keep in mind that your children are listening and watching even when you think they aren’t.
Separate the Deed From the Doer
As cliché and obvious as this may sound, it is very important to remember that even when your child behaves badly, he or she is not ‘bad.’ In fact, even when he or she behaves well, try not to say that he or she is a ‘good’ boy or girl. When you are happy or proud or when you are angry or disappointed, comment on the behaviour that has made you feel this way. So, instead of saying, ‘You weren’t a good girl for mommy today,’ say, ‘When you don’t share with your brother, I feel disappointed.’
Choose Your Words Carefully
Even with the best of intentions, there are times when parents use demeaning words or label their children in a way they regret later. I am thinking of comments such as ‘don’t be an idiot,’ ‘you’re so selfish,’ ‘don’t be a loser,’ and one of the more common, ‘you’re so lazy.’ Even though we may slip up from time to time, it is our responsibility not to demean or use words that will make our children feel put down. It is our responsibility as parents not to call our children names.
Sit With Your Children While They Watch Television
Watching any program with your child is important but in relation to this topic, especially when they are watching popular programs that perpetuate society’s infatuation with botox and better bodies. Ever watched Toddlers and Tiaras? It’s a real eye opener. By watching with them, you can comment and ask questions that will help them to evaluate what they are watching and how they are being influenced. I don’t believe in forbidding or censoring most programs as this may encourage even greater curiosity and may lead to them watching behind your back.
Make Family Their Foundation
If a child feels that his or her family is working together as a team, that people care about one another, treat each other respectfully and help each other out with responsibilities, then that child is more likely to feel a sense of security and belonging. He or she will feel an overall sense of well being, loving others and will be more likely to feel good about him or herself.
Looking for more ways to encourage your child to develop healthy self-esteem? Sara has more pointers here.