Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Stupid Parent Tricks

February 22, 2010

Overheard yesterday morning, as the boys were chasing each other around the house, hiding in closets and screaming, my husband had this gem:

“Stop messing around and go and eat breakfast.  If you want to lie in wait for your brother, do it after breakfast.  Make a temporary truce and EAT YOUR BREAKFAST.”

Ah, the things kids are able to elicit from us, their unsuspecting parents.


AMEN, as usual

November 25, 2009

Raising a Free Range Kid, on

Barbie Update

November 17, 2009

We have lifted the moratorium on Barbie.  There were several factors, and one of the biggest was kindergarten peer pressure.  Yep.  You read that right.  We just decided our discomfort with Barbie was not worth the tears and stress our daughter experienced over not having some of the same toys as other girls in her class.  Now before some of you go postal on me, let me say: its Barbie.  Not a crack pipe.  We feel that some level of “what everyone else is doing” is actually important to their social lives.  They need to be conversant in certain things like sports, tv shows, music and, yes, Barbie in order to function in their social world.  Just like adults.

Before you cry, “That’s insane!  Adults don’t have to conform!”  I have a friend who loathes sports, thinks most of them are barbaric, and yet knew he needed to keep up with at least 2 major sports (he chose baseball and college basketball) to have conversations with people in his office in order to maintain effective working relationships.  He also knew he had to take up golf because the reality is much of the business he is successful at gets done on the golf course.  Ridiculous?  Of course.  But reality.

Sounds like a crazy parallel, but in reality it is the same thing as my daughter needing to be conversant in Barbie.  Again, we’re not handing her a crack pipe or even a Wii or Nintendo DS.  We aren’t going to give in to her every whim every time she whines about “what everyone else has.”  But Barbie wasn’t a big enough deal for us to take a philosophical stand, like with, say hooker dolls Bratz.

Ok, bring it on.  What are your thoughts?


The Need to Stop Micromanaging Our Kids

October 21, 2009

Can we get an “AMEN“?

Wow, Barbie Really CAN do Anything

October 7, 2009

Now here’s a Barbie I can get on board with.  You go, girl.

Hat Tip: Frume Sarah



Chores for Toddlers – Steps to Parenting your Child to Freedom and Independence

September 29, 2009

A whole bunch of people have emailed me wanting to know why I think toddlers can and should do chores.  So here goes.

You are not your children’s servant.  Taking care of them does not mean you fold their laundry and put it away until they go to college.  You CAN be a caring parent and teach your kids to take care of themselves in these basic ways.  In fact, I’d say that being a responsible parent means you MUST teach them how to be responsible for themselves.  The ability to do things for themselves  builds confidence, and self-confidence is the first step towards raising a “free-range” child.

Is your toddler able to throw in a load of laundry when he gets home from Gymboree and grill you a steak while he’s at it?  Of course not.  However, children as young as 2 are capable of contributing on some level.  And, like puppies, they want to be a part of the pack and have a role.  When they feel useful they feel safe and happy.  Here are some things your toddler can do to contribute:

  1. Get a Swiffer or a Swiffer Duster and let them have at it.
  2. Give them a baby wipe and have them wipe down their seat.
  3. Help set the table.
  4. Bring their used plate/cup/utensils to the sink.
  5. Pick up toys (age-appropriate; we had the child pick up and put away as many toys as their age, although by 4 they were doing more than that).
  6. Get dressed themselves.  Yes, they can do this.  Suck it up and pretend the outfits match.  You can comment, “Wow!  You’re so colorful today!”  We often refer to our daughter as “Technicolor Shayna.”
  7. Have them help you sort laundry.  This is a great way to build on color identification.  He/She can make piles of whites, reds, blues, etc.  Bonus:  at this age, they actually think this is fun.
  8. By 4, most children are able to schmeer some peanut butter or cream cheese on some bread or a bagel, and certainly can pour milk/juice.  Buy an inexpensive “toy” pitcher for them to use for this purpose, to make it easier to handle.  Voila!  They can help with their own lunch.  Put some cereal and bowls on the table and they can do breakfast.  Be prepared to do a bit of extra clean-up in the beginning, but it gets better quickly.
  9. My toddler helped brush our cat.  This worked for us; if you think your kid can be gentle, by all means go for it.  Pet care is important for everyone to pitch in with.  Now that she’s 5, she’s moved up to being in charge of morning feedings of dry food.

Age-appropriate expectations are important.  No toddler can spend 45 minutes cleaning up.  5 minutes or so is probably closer 🙂  The important thing is to engage them in this family activity as early as possible to lend structure to their day and help them feel useful and a part of the family “pack.”

Anyone have other suggestions out there?

Oh, and we don’t pay them for this.  These are are things that are part of the responsibility of helping the family run smoothly.  Any chore I would pay someone else to do (such as mow the lawn or clean out all the fridges/freezers), I will pay them for if they take the project on and see it through until the end.  Wow I just re-read that; no one’s toddler should be mowing a lawn or cleaning out a freezer.  That comment was directed at older children 🙂

Things I’m a Snob About Thursday, Repentance Edition

September 24, 2009

Sunday evening begins the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”).  It is the most serious and holy day of our year.  It is a time of reflection and introspection, repentance and forgiveness, renewal and inspiration.  We are currently in “the 10 days,” the period of time between our new year (Rosh Hashanah) and our day of atonement.  It is the time we especially focus on our sins and mistakes, ask for and grant forgiveness from our friends and loved ones, and generally reflect on what we can do to improve ourselves in the coming year.

I completely own the fact that I am a snob in many areas.  I’m not flaunting it; I simply acknowledge it.  Most people are, whether they admit it or not.  While I think everyone is entitled to their opinions, being ‘snobby’ about things does not make me a better parent or person than those who dissent.  I know tons of families who have Cable, Wii, Barbies and processed food aplenty who are raising beautiful, healthy, kind, respectful, “good” kids.  Ultimately, whatever my personal prejudices, living out one’s stellar values trumps pretty much everything else.  So to those I may have offended or upset, I apologize.

I am working on being more open-minded in certain areas related to other people’s parenting styles, and it is going to be my major behavioral focus in the coming year.  Let me be clear:  I do NOT think it is my way or the highway.  Plenty of ways to parent that are healthy and productive.  But there are certain things that I believe are truly not effective or productive, and I’m working on being open to people who choose those methods and learning from the reasons they make their choices.

What are some things you feel you could be more open-minded about?  How do you think you might be able to embrace the people behind the parenting?

Things I Suck at Friday, Early Edition: Being OK With Barbie

September 23, 2009

I have a Barbie complex.  I hate them.  I didn’t play with them when I was little, and so of course my daughter loves them and is a real “girlie-girl.”  I have embraced my inner princess when it comes to the girlie stuff (loads of nail polish, glitter, pink fluff, pink, and oh yes pink).  But Barbie makes me gag.  The ‘free-range‘ parent in me sits on one shoulder saying, “Get over yourself!  It’s just a freaking doll with boobs!”  And the grossed-out parent in me sits on the other shoulder saying, “It’s a freaking doll with boobs!”

I feel like we’re all assaulted with images of women that are gratuitous and unreal, why on earth would I give my daughter (or my sons, for that matter) a doll who looks like that to play with?  I struggle, because Barbie and her friends are so much a part of the pretend play that little girls engage in at this age.  I am aware that my adult eye see “hooker” and my daughter’s 5-year-old eyes see “doll with breasts like mommy.”  She has no frame of reference to connect Barbie’s body with hers.  Yet I just can’t get past this aversion.  We’ve encouraged pretend play with baby dolls – trust me, my Shayna has plenty of dolls, doll accessories, doll everything.  She loves it and she spends literally hours either by herself or with friends playing with these dolls.  Yet every. single. time. we go to Target she asks for a Barbie.  All her friends have them, and I know even at 5 this is an issue for her (a total girl thing.  my boys were not aware of this kind of social stuff for years.  and clearly, based on their lack of desire to shower, still aren’t).

*sigh* – any advice from veteran parents of girls out there?

It Starts With Socks

September 14, 2009

My youngest began kindergarten a few weeks ago, and things have been going well.  She loves it, she’s happy to be in school with her brothers, and she loves having lunch in a cafeteria and riding the bus (simple pleasures!).  She’s learning how to be a big-school-kid.  She has a backpack she’s responsible for, and she’s in charge of getting her clothes together the night before.

So.  I get a call from school.  It’s the kindergarten teachers (one for general studies and one for Jewish/Hebrew).  They are concerned because twice in the last few weeks my daughter has had a melt down in class.  Why, you ask?  And I quote:

“Shayna was upset because you forgot to have her wear socks on gym day.  She needs socks, and the gym teachers insist on it.  She has to sit out if she is not wearing socks.  She was so upset.  Please make sure she is wearing her socks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”

[ I forgot to have her wear socks.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Every night before bed I say, “Shayna, please put out your clothes for tomorrow, and if you have gym remember socks.”  She either does or doesn’t.  The first 2 times she forgot her socks, I ran them up to school because let’s face it: we all forget things sometimes.  After the second time I reminded her that she needs the socks for gym and she needs to be responsible for them.  I would not be available to run her socks to school again.  Both subsequent times she has forgotten the socks, the school called me and in my nicest I’m-a-helpful-Mommy voice I said, “I’m so sorry, I’m not able to run socks to school.  She’ll have to do without.”  This provoked the classroom meltdowns.]

I took a deep breath and explained to the teachers that we believe part of kindergarten is learning to be responsible for yourself.  This begins at home.  She is capable of putting her clothes out (all of them) the night before, so we expect it.  She will have to experience the consequences of not doing that, even if that means sitting out at gym.  School picks up where home leaves off.  I told the teachers that we don’t expect them to pack her bag at the end of the day, and if she forgets her raincoat at school on a Friday, it’s going to be a wet weekend for her.  These are important lessons on the road to being a responsible student.

This did not go over well.  The teachers do not want to have to deal with hassles from home, and I get that.  However, school is where they learn to be good students.  This is part of that.  I told both teachers that I understood the difficult position they are in, but presumably the ultimate goal on both ends is to create a competent and responsible child.  I have a 3rd grader and a 6th grader, and all of their teachers will tell you that they rarely forget their homework or kippot, and they take responsibility for their actions and behavior.  It doesn’t just magically happen one day, you have to build a foundation over time.

And it starts with socks.

OMG This Might Kill Me

September 8, 2009

Oh lord the DRAMA.  middle schooler is home “sick” with stomach aches, etc.  Since it is the beginning of this 3 year odyssey I let him stay home, and we just spent 45 minutes organizing his subjects and going through notebooks.  He (like his mother) gets totally overwhelmed with big projects and his brain just goes kablooey.  So I showed him how I break up projects into manageable tasks and map them out on a calendar with the due date highlighted, etc.

We are super hands-off about homework; if you’re capbable of doing it on your own, you do.  And if you don’t, it’s not my problem.  It’s yours.  We don’t deal with teachers about homework, our kids do.  We don’t stand over them each night saying, “Did you do math?  What about science?”  We have assessed that they’re capable of being responsible, so we expect it of them.

This is different.  He is clearly not getting the skills at school he needs to help him learn how to organize himself, so this is something I can help with at home.  We’ll see how it goes.  That, and deep breathing.  Or margaritas.  Whatever 😉