Tag: Mom

Success Story: I Didn’t Say “Good Work”

Didn'tSayGoodWorkMy 3 year old son was struggling with a Buzz Lightyear puzzle.  It was one that didn’t stay together well and putting in one piece would dislodge another.  He’d get frustrated, but I had just read a Love and Logic article about the gift of giving our kids a chance to struggle.

I said “Keep at it.”

He worked for several more minutes and succeeded.

“Mom,” he proudly said, “I did it!

Instead of saying my normal, “good work,”  I used what Love and Logic suggested and asked him “Why do you think you did so well?”

He looked at me confused and I said, “Well, did you work hard, keep practicing, or keep trying?”

He said, “I kept trying and I did it!”

–Jeni

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2013 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Holiday Traditions: Words of Wisdom

An experienced mother shares what she wishes she would have known about holiday traditions when her kids were young

When my sons were little, I was so excited to live out my fantasies of being a great mommy who created Norman Rockwell-ish holidays. Since the time I was old enough to play with Barbies, I dreamt of happily baking Christmas cookies while holiday music filled the air and my content happy children played joyfully at my feet. Insert sound of needle screeching across an old-fashioned record here. The reality had more to do with young children who wished their mommy who was giving them attention than anything that had to do with the mixing bowl on the counter far above their heads. Insert sound of sibling bickering and fussing little boys.

Fast forward to a conversation several un-Rockwell-ish cookie-baking years later.

My friend Jana’ told me about  memories of coming home to a table full of cookies after school when her mother held a big cookie exchange with other moms.  I wondered if I was depriving my children and should add yet another  tradition to my long list of “must-do’s” for the month of December.

A while later, Jana’ told me she had reminisced with her mother about that wonderful cookie tradition. Her mom, however, was puzzled. She insisted that she only did that a couple of times in Jana’s life. Jana’ was astounded because in her mind, it was firmly planted as a wonderful, ongoing tradition.

Our “a-ha” from this revelation? We don’t have to do something every single year in order for it to be a special memory for our children. What if we limited ourselves to the traditions that we could do with a happy heart on any given year? What if the important part of the season was being fully present with our children instead of the insane checklist of obligatory things to do? Now that my kids are teens, I feel sad watching moms stress over getting things done instead of being in balance and present for their kids. Have I mastered this? Not even close. But have I had more moments of joy and sanity than I used to during the holidays? Yup.

Here’s something to try if you want to keep your traditions AND your sense of humor and sanity:

  1. List all the traditions on your list for this year.
  2. Put an “x” next to the ones you don’t really FEEL like doing but think you should.
  3. Circle the ones that you ENJOY and really WANT to do.
  4. Look at the “x list” and see if you can bear to cross some of them off just for this year. Think about what you might be able to do that would bring you joy instead of doing those things.
  5. For the items that remain on your list, ask yourself how you can make them more fun.

Here are some ways I’ve found to make traditions “fun” instead of “obligatory”:

  1. Bake cookies with a girlfriend while all your kids play together.
  2. Stuff and stamp cards with a friend while the kids play.
  3. Wrap gifts with a friend. When our kids were at preschool or elementary school, my friend Debbie and I used to haul our gifts and wrap and ribbon to one or the other’s house and wrap till we dropped. We got a lot done, we had fun, and we got to connect with each other. It was worth all the hauling!
  4. One of my friends has a tradition of signing cards only when she has turned on holiday music and lights, lit candles and has a glass of eggnog setting next to her.
  5. Deliver jars of homemade hot fudge to neighbors. My boys and I only do it on the years when I feel inspired, but when we do, the kids get to practice neighborliness and we get to live in a warmer, more friendly neighborhood.

This December, I wish for you the freedom that comes from choosing which traditions you keep alive and which ones you take a break from in order to give your kids a parent who is in balance enough to truly cherish them.

With love and laughter,

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

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Part 3: Happy Family Evenings End With Happy Hour

Wouldn’t it be nice to start each evening with some time to sit, relax and chat with your husband, wife or significant other?

<Parenting Help for Happy FamiliesEvening parenting takes a lot of energy after a full day of either working outside the home or parenting. One couple I worked with used to try to sit and talk when the working dad got home from work, but their sons would whine, “You want to talk to mommy more than to me!” Their kids would be disruptive and demand attention. Mom and dad just wanted a few minutes of peace to relax and catch up. Sitting and talking with each other became more frustrating than it was worth.

This family made their evenings with their boys, ages 3 and 4, so much more enjoyable by doing the following:

Mom now tells the boys that when Daddy gets home, the grown ups are going to sit and talk for 20 minutes. It’s their “happy hour” because sitting and talking to each other makes them happy. She says, “I know that when Daddy comes home, you want his attention right away and it’s hard to wait. So this is your time to tell me how you feel about that.” They tell her how they don’t like to wait and how they want to play “Hop On Pop” with daddy. She encourages them to say it a bunch of times to get it out of their system. She listens lovingly and encourages them to say everything they have to say about the matter. She asks, “Is there anything else you need to say to get it out of your system?”

Next, mom asks them, “What can you do to keep yourself happy while Daddy and I have our Happy Time? She gives them choices of playdough, an art project, a TV show, the sandbox, their train set. She could even write these choices on popsicle sticks and let them draw an activity each evening so that it feels like a surprise to see what their activity will be.

When Daddy comes home, he give hugs, kisses and smiles to everyone. Then explains to the boys that for every minute they entertain themselves peacefully and without interruping, they earn a minute of “Hop on Pop” wrestling time with Daddy.

This smart couple now gets to start most evenings with time to relax and connect before they head into “parent duty.” And now, even if they collapse into bed after the kids are asleep, they’ve gotten to enjoy each other’s company for a few precious minutes. Kids may seem to WANT every minute of your attention, but giving them the gift of modeling a good relationship is invaluable, even if it means they must entertain themselves for a bit.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part Two: Happy Family Evenings Continue With An Intention

Most of us SAY that family comes first, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if living that motto was as easy as saying it? Whether we like it or not, work often drains the best from many of us and our family gets stuck the leftovers.

Parenting Tips to Build Happy FamiliesDale used to come home stressed, tired, and irritated by the people he had to deal with at his job. While he drove home, he’d be on the phone, finishing up his work day and dealing with more stress. When he walked in the door, he’d often be on a phone call, waving off his little girls who were antsy to see daddy and get his attention. He had no transition time and the girls seemed like just another demand in his exhausting day. Mom would be annoyed, wishing he’d walk in the door happy to see his little girls and give her a hug and a kiss. Not a good start to the evening.

There is a quick trick that can make a huge difference in how evening family time goes. I don’t guarantee much when it comes to human behavior, but if I were to try, I’d hedge my bets on this technique for parents who work outside of the home. Stay at home parents can use the same technique, just from inside the house.

Dale started to use a 10 minute technique that dramatically changed evenings for his entire family. Here’s what he did:

He started pulling over on his way home to take a few minutes to transition from “work mode” to “family mode.”
He turned off the ringer on his phone.
He turned on a song that put him into a good mood. Sometimes he just savored the silence.
He sat and soaked in the view and took a few conscious breaths to slow down his brain.
He talked himself into leaving work at the office so that he could show up fully present for the ones he loved most in all the world.

Lastly, he set an intention for his time with the family that evening. Sometimes it was to make sure to look his wife and each child in the eyes and ask about their day…. and then to actually listen to their answers. Some days he committed to making sure to smile at each of his family members. Other days he’d focus on being a good partner in the tasks of dishes and putting the kids to bed. Sometimes he committed (to himself) to take the girls on a bike ride. Once in a while, he would look up a joke that he could tell at dinner. And always, he set his intention to be as loving as he could be. This was a big step for his goal of living without regret.

Ten minutes was all it took for this man to show up as the beloved, superstar daddy that he was to his two little girls. It made his wife love him more. Evenings were transformed. Not perfect, but transformed.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Part One: Happy Family Evenings Start with a Check In

Parenting Tips to Build Happy FamiliesEvening family time can sound so lovely … family dinner, playtime, baths, stories and cuddles.

In many households, however, people don’t quite feel like they’re “livin’ the dream.” Quite the contrary, in fact.

Many couples I work with tend to “read” each other and make guesses about how their mate is feeling. Fact: they often guess wrong. They mistake stress for grumpiness and tiredness for rejection. I don’t care how long you’ve been with someone, it is still always your job to let your darling know how you’re feeling and what you need.

It might sound like this:

“I have nothing left to give after being with these little people all day. I’m not grumpy, I’m just empty. I need to just sit with your arm around me and have a grown up conversation. And I need you to ask me about my day.”

“My brain is full after an intense day at work, but once I slow down a little, I’d love to play with the kids and give you a break.”

“I’m kind of irked right now and need some alone time before I’m ready to be a good parent. How can we make that work so that it feels ok for you?”

Imagine if each evening before you and your loved one showed up at home with young kids needing care and attention, you had a quick phone call to share what kind of mood you’re each in. You wouldn’t have to bother with the frustration that comes with misreading each other’s cues. You might be better able to meet each other’s needs and enjoy each other and your kids.

Single parent? Same holds true, you just have to do it with yourself. Stop and ask yourself how you feel and what you need. If your kids are old enough, you can ask them how they’re feeling and what they need. Maybe every one needs down time. Or food right away. Or family snuggles. Then figure out how everyone can get their needs met at some point during the evening. Maybe dad needs down-time first and then he’ll be able to play some catch. Or maybe the preschooler needs cuddle time right away, but then agrees to play quietly for 20 minutes while mom sits and unwinds. It’s not always easy, but it is possible for everyone to get their needs met eventually; it just takes some strategizing.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Life in a Pinball Machine

I am standing in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for my family…

Parenting Help - Love and Logic ParentingPalmer (6) is banging on the counter with an action figure while he asks for a drink. Landon (2) is playing on the floor at my feet with his new and very noisy digger, saying “Play, mommy!” Keaton (9) is downstairs hollering at me to come down and build his new Lego set with him.

Our houseguest, Mike, is wondering aloud if I am REALLY not cooking a full, hot breakfast for him this morning. My husband is sitting on the couch reading an interesting new book and wanting to share tidbits of it with me.

On the outside, I look calm and composed, but inside, I am thinking (quite loudly) “HELLO, has anyone noticed that there is only ONE of me in this house right now? Are there only five of you who want my attention and help right now? Only five?” Well, come to think of it, the two birds need their medicine, and the fish needs food…if it’s not already too late.

So there, that totals eight male beings who want and need me at this very moment. I feel like I live in a pinball machine and I am the ball!

These are the times when I can either blow up and go off on all of my loved ones at once, or I can stop and figure out when and how I can get some time for my own sanity preservation. There is no point in being angry at my children for having so many needs, because that is the nature of children. I can long for someone else to insist that I take time to relax and take care of myself, and that would be ever so lovely. But ultimately, I am the only one who knows what I need, and it is my responsibility to make that happen.

So I tell myself to hang in there and do what I can. Then I plan ways to “re-fuel” during the day. In the van on the way to church, I’ll leave the phone turned off and listen to soothing music. I’ll sit and watch a movie with my boys this afternoon. I’ll let the house be messy until my cup is re-filled. I’ll try to go to bed early enough to read before I fall asleep.

Whatever it takes, I, and all the moms and dads out there, have got to find ways to keep our cups full. Kids, and life in general, require so much of us, and if we let ourselves get drained, we are depleted and have nothing left to give. It is not selfish to take care of ourselves; rather, it is a gift to give our children parents who are available and can cherish their innocence and beauty.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Want to Stop Yelling at Your Kids?

Bless my kids and their cranky days.

If my 3 boys were perfect and delightful all the time, I’d have no credibility as a parenting instructor. Lucky for me, I don’t have that problem!

Just the other morning, I was tempted to yell. I came right to the brink when two of them were participating in their well-loved sport that I call “Combat Brothering.” I was so annoyed.

It started with little snide comments….under the breath criticisms about how the other breathes or chews or feeds the dog or blows his nose. Then it ramped up to yelling and tattling. That day’s round involved throwing gumdrops at each other and leaving them wherever they fell, mostly on the carpet where I almost smashed one into my newly cleaned rug. Irritating. After screaming at me about his spelling words, one son got himself sent to his room to “get sweet.” He came back down too soon, still slinging word-darts at me. By this time, I was fed up. I felt the irritation rising. I know my pattern and I could tell I was on the road to yelling at my kid.

I knew that I had to head this off then and there, before I raised my voice and sentenced myself to a day of mommy-guilt. I remembered my friend’s technique for getting kids to cool down and I told one son to go run around the block. Ya, right. He said, “You come with me!” I looked down and saw that I still had on running shoes and workout clothes, so I said, “Fine!”

As we both ran outside on a beautiful spring morning, I realized something: If we parents want to stop yelling at our kids, the most important thing to focus on is preventing the escalation. When we’re not yet at “the edge,” our brain functions better and is more resourceful. When we are calm we can remember to use the parenting strategies we already know. But once we reach that explosive point, it’s really, really hard to rein it in, kind of like the BP oil spill. Once the pressure got to a certain point, there was no stopping it until it had spread sludge everywhere and coated everything with muck. Isn’t our parental yelling pretty much the same?

It takes a lot of work for some of us to stop yelling. One technique that can help is going “brain dead” (a Love and Logic™ idea) when our kids argue and yell. The trick is to keep ourselves from getting engaged in the fight. After all, as Hal Runkel says in Screamfree Parenting, “parenting is about parents, not kids.”


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Don’t You Know You’re Supposed to Behave Today?

For many years now, my children have unwittingly been actors in a drama… the play could be titled “Kerry’s Fantasies.”

These fantasies consist of dreams and stories created by a much younger me in which my children are happy and well adjusted, squeaky clean and smiling.

In this dream, there is an act by the name of “Easter morning” in which the happy children wake up excitedly on Easter morning and search for colored eggs and candy, delighting appreciatively in each find.

Some years, my children have cooperated quite nicely with my little storyline. One year, however, my older two boys were cantankerous and fought over who found which egg first, whose basket was better, who had more. They squabbled and argued. I found myself very irritated with these ungrateful little children who were not acting according to my script for them. If they hadn’t been so obnoxious, it might have been funny.

I took a photo of this unpleasant scene: Palmer pulling Keaton’s shirt, Keaton grimacing and hollering. I thought I’d use it when they were older to show them how ornery they used to be. Instead, that picture has served to teach ME a lesson.

What that morning and my aggravation taught me is that kids will be kids, regardless of the sacredness of a day or holiday. Some days will be fun and full of smiles. Others will involve hassles and irritation. I learned that it is better for my sanity if I just show up in the moment, ready to accept the day as it is. No more scripts that the kids know nothing about. No more trying to get them to behave a certain way because it is a certain day.It is better to just show up and accept my three sons in whatever form they appear on any given day.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Blessings Box

Ten years ago, when my children were young, we began a ritual that the whole family still enjoys today.

It all started because I wanted to teach Joshua, then age five, and Joel, then age two, about thankfulness in a way that was more fun and tangible than simply lecturing, “Be thankful.”
The idea took shape one day when Joshua charged into the room, held up a dime, and said “Mommy, will you take down my piggy bank so I can put this in?”  Stretching that concept a bit, I wondered if the boys would go for a special bank that, instead of saving money, saved their blessings – those big and small events that bring happiness.

I rummaged around for just the right container… I then rounded up the boys and plopped a small gift box on the kitchen counter and asked, “Do you know what this is going to be?”  Puzzled, they shook their heads.  “Well,” I said, “when something really good or exciting happens in our family, such as when you lose a tooth or you’re kind to someone, we’ll write it down on a piece of paper.  You can slide in the papers, kind of like a piggy bank.  We’ll call it our Blessing Box.” 

“We’ll keep the Blessing Box on top of the refrigerator, and when we want to add something we’re thankful for, we’ll bring the box to the dinner table to take special time to write a note and put it in the box.  Then on Thanksgiving, we’ll open the box and read everything so we can remember and celebrate all of our blessings.”

Since the kids were young, we discussed their ideas and my husband and I wrote notes for them.  They suggested events such as “Joel no longer gets up and eats a banana in the middle of the night” and “Joshua was kind to Joel even when Joel hit him.”  It turned out that in addition to inspiring thankfulness, the box often provided an extra bit of recognition for a good deed or good behavior.  And then there was the fun of sliding the notes into the “bank,” which the children particularly enjoyed when they were little.

As their reading and writing abilities evolved over the years, the kids were able to write notes themselves.  As parents, Kevin and I found it enlightening to see what each child counted as important: losing a tooth, acquiring our dog, winning a basketball game, or Dad’s return from a business trip. The kids learned that even the tiniest events or accomplishments were fair game.
Some years, we added notes only every two or three months.  Now that the kids are older, we have a more regular schedule.  At the end of each month, on a night when we’re all home for dinner, our son sets the table with paper and pen by each plate.  Then, while we dish up food or butter the rolls, we share our thoughts and write them down.

Although everyone enjoys these monthly thankfulness feasts, we really look forward to our annual grand finale on Thanksgiving morning.  We open the Blessing Box, pass it around, and randomly pull out slips of paper to read.  It definitely starts off the day on a positive and thankful note.  After breakfast, I gather the pieces of paper into an envelope that I date and file.  With ten envelopes tucked away, I know the Blessing Box helps our kids practice thankfulness year-round.


Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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Things I Wish I Would Have Known

I recently received an email from a dad who has taken one of my early childhood parenting classes.

He asked if I had a list of things that parents of younger children should know “not to get hung up on.” I surveyed a number of my friends with older kids and got so much great advice! Here is part one of what they had to say:

Ann, mother of 3 kids, ages 14, 12 and 9 wrote:
Don’t get hung up on making special meals for your kids; serve them only what you eat; don’t get stuck in the “my kid only eats mac and cheese” disaster.

Don’t feel guilty about not signing up for all the activities there are for young kids these days; my only caveat is that it’s good to start early with music because it’s hard to fit it into your schedule later on if it’s not already there.

Don’t get hung up on buying new toys all the time to keep your kid occupied; it’s better to keep fewer toys out so it’s not so overwhelming, and to recycle.

Do read to your child and don’t get hung up on having your child read before kindergarten; kids learn how to read at all different times and earlier is not necessarily better; enjoying reading is more important than learning how to read early.

Do insist on respect and kindness.

Stress less: parents often teach best by modelling good behavior rather than directly teaching it.

 

Beth, mother of 3 kids, ages 20, 16 and 10 wrote:
I think its important to be informed as a parent and balance all the literature and advice with a sense of what works for you as a mother. Don’t try to make your children happy, be happy first. Share your interests with your children. If they take to one of them, you’ll have something to share together for the rest of your life. Remember that children age, mature and become adults and that you are doing a good job to help them become contributing members of society. They’ll spend 60 years as adults….20 as children… even though a temper tantrum can feel like it’s lasting 60 years in a grocery store. 🙂

 

Freddie, father of 4 wrote:
Don’t get hung up on insisting that a kid wear a coat because you think you’d be cold without one.

Bed time flexes with the events of the day. The chance to be out doing something interesting trumps a rigid bedtime. You might pay a price the next day, but eventually they’ll catch up on sleep.

Remember that kids tend to balance their diets over the course of a week – not a day. But… if you want your kid to like fruits and vegetables, they have to live on them for the first couple of years.

Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents

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Head & Heart Parents is owned by Kerry Stutzman, MSW, a Marriage and Family Therapist and certified Love and Logic Parenting Instructor. In addition to private therapy and parent consulting services, Kerry offers parenting classes and workshops in Denver and the surrounding areas for toddlers, elementary, and teenage children.

As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.

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