An increasing number of studies show that intensive parenting is bad for mothers and bad for children, yielding a generation of kids who lack the wings to fly. Why then do American families still have June Cleaver on a pedestal? Let’s put an end to face time parenting and instead focus on how to be the best parent possible when we are with our children. Regardless of your constraints – financial, time, or logistical – here are 8 gifts to give your children now:
1. The Gift of Empathy
We all want our children to grow up with the ability to have close relationships and empathy is at the cornerstone. With that in mind, let’s not be the parent who addresses their crying child with exasperation and says, “You’re fine!” Instead, think back to the last time you felt sad or angry and shared your feelings. How would you have felt if the person you opened up to said, “Buck up.” Just as you crave and need emotional validation, your child does too. Validating doesn’t say to your child, “You are right.” It says: “I have heard you. I understand your feelings.”
2. The Gift of Unconditional Love
I grew up in a family that said, “I love you” every day. My husband did not but it has since become important to him. Hearing and saying the words are not just an emotion – they are an activity – and integral to creating a safe, warm family culture. As Michele Borba explains, “‘I love you’ plants the most important message. Our kids need to develop those critical beliefs that say ‘I’m a worthwhile person’ and our words become their inner dialogue.”
3. The Gift of Listening
We feel we know what is best for our children so we tend to bring the “answer” to the conversation. Yet listening trumps solving. As life coach Martha Beck shared with me, the most important gift to a child is to show them: “I see you” for who you really are. Martha was sick in bed for much of her children’s early years but she explains that she could still see them for who they were, and now as adults, they tell her that was all that really mattered.
4. The Gift of Happiness
Research shows that optimistic people lead healthier and happier lives. If you don’t see the glass half full today, shift your thinking for the sake of your child. Having a negative parent makes it harder for a child to have positive expectancy – to believe that good things will happen to them. So the next time you catch yourself verbalizing your self-doubt or cynicism, turn it around for the sake of your audience.
5. The Gift of Peace
Children sense their parents’ stress. As much as you are worried about finances, your cat’s injury, the angry client and what you will be scraping together for dinner, take a breath and refocus on the big picture for the sake of your innocent child. Exposure to an anxious parent leads to anxiety in children.
6. The Gift of a Strong Body Image
If your child catches you loving your body, she will learn to love hers. A child’s healthy body image comes with work. Never let her hear you criticizing your body or anyone else’s. Shield her from spending time with families that talk about diet and weight loss. Curate your friends so that you surround her with positive body images and healthy talk. Intentionally point out beauty that comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. Give your child a head start on a healthy body image by pointing out what makes her beautiful – her strength, her mind, her heart, and her smile.
7. The Gift of Self-Confidence
When I interviewed successful and famous people for my internet talk show, Obsessed TV, 98% of them had one thing in common – parents who made them believe they could be anything they set out to become; that whatever their dreams, they could achieve them with hard work. Make this your mantra.
8. The Gift of a Healthy Drive
As a child, if I came home with a new test result, my mom would ask what grades the students sitting to my left and right had received. Yet when we are raised to compare to others, we are never fully satisfied with ourselves. By encouraging your child to achieve his personal best, you will be setting him up for a healthy attitude and a great definition of success.
Do you have a picky eater and spend hours agonizing about how to steer her away from the chicken nuggets and pasta diet? At my wit’s end with one of my own, I asked Cooking Channel host and The Next Food Network Star winner Melissa d’Arabian for some help.
Here, in her own words, are Melissa’s favorite tricks:
1. Let your kids pick the produce
I turn grocery shopping into a bit of an outing and the kids all know that they are in charge of picking produce. I hand them the plastic bag and say “Ok, Margaux, you are in charge of picking the best two fennel bulbs you can find!” Amazingly, the kids never tire of “being in charge of picking.” Now, you might expect me to tell you that Margaux will go home and eat the fennel because she picked it. Ha! Were it only so easy. But I think the fact that she had to ask me “What does fennel look like?” and she had to search over the green veggies, and spot the kale and the bok choy to get to the fennel means several veggies were a bit demystified for her. She might taste the fennel when I serve it, but even if she doesn’t, she spent 15 minutes feeling good about fennel and learning about it. Victory.
2. Go to the farmer’s market, for entertainment
Turn the farmer’s market trip into a relaxed, fun family outing. We amble leisurely from stall to stall, finding the craziest shaped squash, or a funny, knobby, tomato. The girls strike up conversations with the vendors, many of them farmers, who love to chat about their goods. We can easily spend a couple of hours at the farmer’s market, feeling good about fresh, unprocessed food. While the prices may be a bit higher than they are at the grocery store, I figure it’s still cheaper than taking everyone to the movie for two hours. And no one is falling in love with an oversized pumpkin at the cinema.
3. Serve at least two vegetables at dinner
Kids like to feel empowered. I like to serve two veggies during dinner to give my kids the option: Would you like carrots, kale, or both? They get to be involved in the decisions and I can ensure they’re eating at least one. Plus it’s a great way for us to meet our own nutritional goals and model healthy eating to the kids.
4. Have the kids “present” dinner
Every night one of the children presents the dinner to the rest of the family, explaining what each dish is, the main ingredients, and a very brief nutritional overview of the dish. For instance, “This is chicken cooked in a mustard sauce. Chicken is a protein which helps us build muscles.” My goal is to develop an appreciation for the different roles of healthy foods. Kids tend to group all “healthy” foods into one bucket, and I want my kids to know that just because they ate some healthy fish doesn’t mean that they don’t need to get some produce in there too.
5. Invite Your Kids to Plan the Menu
Every couple of weeks, I let each child plan dinner for the entire family. The rules are: Mom has to approve the menu, and mom is allowed to add a dish or two of her choosing. At first, the girls were suggesting crazy, imbalanced dinner menus, like my daughter Charlotte’s first: doughnuts and cinnamon cake. I gently told her how much I loved her creativity with the “breakfast for dinner” concept, but I wondered if perhaps we might be missing a protein? We agreed to add an omelet to the meal, and we moved the cinnamon cake to dessert. And, she excitedly suggested having a fruit salad instead of vegetables. The girls are developing a good sense for how to build a balanced meal, but there are two additional benefits: I have an internal salesperson sitting at the table, selling “her” menu to her sisters and the girls are more accepting of my menus, knowing they will get their own turn next Tuesday.
6. Make one meal for the whole family, and have the “no thank you” bite
I like to serve meals that offer delicious and nutritious foods that the whole family can enjoy. Sure you can adjust spices as needed, but I still make one meal. Then, the “no thank you” bite comes into play. My kids are welcome to say they don’t care for something as long as they have one bite. If they don’t like it, that’s fine, and I move on. For me this fits our family because I wanted my kids to be willing to try things. That was more important to me than having them stomach a huge thing of broccoli.
7. Give them “taste-tester” notebooks
I turned my children into “official” taste-testers just by giving each one a composition book that I bought for a buck! Anytime they try a new food, they write it down, give it a score from 1-10, and can write some comments (“yummy!” or “thought it was mushy”). Just the act of giving them a place to voice their opinion helps validate their opinions and creates an adventurous spirit at the table.
by Samantha Ettus
More than 20 years ago, American Airlines saved $40,000 by removing just one olive from each salad tray in First class. This fun fact translates to your life where the smallest lifestyle changes can yield the most dramatic gains. Here are 10 ways to steal more time from your own life:
1. Organize Masterfully
Triathletes win and lose races in the transitions. Make sure your “supplies’ are in the right places. Every member of your family needs her own equivalent of the cubby and her backpack, lunchbox, homework, and shoes all needs to live there.
2. Outsource – to Your Kids
Figure out the age appropriate activities that your kids can do on their own. Get dressed? Pour cereal? Even put him in charge of managing the schedule. An added bonus is that you are helping him towards independence at the same time. More on Forbes…
by Rachel Faucett
It just happens to be national craft month so I’m extra excited about guest posting. As working moms, we are always short on time, so here are five easy and gorgeous craft projects that will get your crafty wheels turning. The easy to follow, step-by-step tutorials guarantee success regardless of your skill level. Have fun and be sure to send pics once you’ve gotten your craft on!
DIY Cashmere Cuffs Via Purl Bee
DIY Sweet Potato Stamping and Blanket Craft Tutorial via This Little Miggy
DIY Crocheted Stones Via Flax and Twine
DIY Saltwater Taffy via Vanilla and Lace
DIY Polymer Clay Geometric Necklace via Delighted Momma
Rachel Faucett is the founder of Handmade Charlotte, a leading design and DIY crafts site. Rachel is a mother of 5.
by Samantha Ettus
Fresh from landing on The New York Times Best Seller list, I interviewed Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, two of the four authors of the new humor book rocking the mommy world one laugh at a time. Alicia and Mary Ann are Sh*tty Moms by night and TODAY Show producers by day.
Describe a Sh*tty Mom.
Mary Ann: It’s mothering with 40 percent of the effort. It is a Mom who tries her best but manages to still mess up most of the time.
Alicia: We’re all Sh*tty Moms at one point or another. From dropping a ball at work, at home, or both, sometimes you just can’t win at being mom.
Can you be a great mom and a Sh*tty Mom?
Mary Ann: Of course! Most Sh*tty Moms are more on Forbes…
by Samantha Ettus
I have yet to see a successful working and married mom with a husband who doesn’t contribute. Here are six steps to guarantee that you and your husband are partners on the parenting adventure from the beginning:
1. Do the Doctor Visits Together
Sure it’s your body but it is your (collective) baby. So there is every reason he should be at all of the pre-birth doctor visits. Schedule them around both of your schedules and make sure he falls in love with the baby from the very first time he sees more on Forbes…
by Samantha Ettus
Leaving your family before dawn on Monday and returning home late Friday to be there for short weekends is not the reality for most working moms. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlantic describes a life in the White House that is most akin to a tour of duty in the military. Would we listen to a soldier who just returned from Iraq tell us that there is no such thing as work life balance?It would be insane.
Slaughter irresponsibly uses her personal extreme to evaluate working motherhood as a whole.
In Olympic gymnastics or ice skating we “throw out” the high score and the low score because they are thought to represent the extremes of more on Forbes…
by Samantha Ettus
When I arrived at Mom 2.0 Summit last week I was surrounded by leaders and influencers in the mom space. I had just written about the New Mr. Right so husbands were on my mind but it turned out that they were on other minds too.
First up was cocktail hour where I met a couple of high power single women and we talked about why the new Mr. Right needs to be part of the equation. And then, a conversation with a woman I have long admired who shared her own story of marrying Mr. Wrong. It took health issues and years of exploration for her to get rid of the negative and unhelpful man that had hijacked her spirit and her home. Her story was uplifting because she is now more powerful and happier than ever before, no longer controlled by more on Forbes…
by Samantha Ettus
Your life shouldn’t be this hard. You are working, momming, juggling, and you are probably exhausted without a break in sight. If this describes you, take respite in knowing that small lifestyle edits can make great changes.
Here are 8 ways to make tomorrow easier than today:
1. Routinize Your Schedule
Even if you don’t live by a train, act as though you do. Make a daily departure time and proudly stick to it. This makes you more dependable at home and more reliable at the office. Colleagues will steer clear of the 5pm conference call if they know you leave at 5:30 and your family will be more organized if they know when to expect you.
2. Plan Your Dinners
Schedule the week of dinners on Sunday more on Forbes…