Category Archives: Parenting

12 Math Tips For Teaching Non-Math Minded Kids

Saxon MathNumbers are not my thing. In fourth grade, I couldn’t understand why they were telling stories in math. In sixth-grade, the teacher called my mom in to tell her it was time I stopped counting on my fingers. In seventh grade, math meant counting the minutes till I could bolt out of that classroom and start talking again, preferably to the blue-eyed basketball hunk coming out of the classroom across the hall. And my senior year, business math blew my 4.0 in high school. Business math.

Just because your son swears he’s going to be a missionary, your daughter swears she’s going to be the first US female president, or your kid can draw like Michelangelo is no reason to skip math. If my dad had said, “Math isn’t your thing. Go fry an egg,” or my teacher would have said, “You’ll never get this stuff. Stick to hairspray,” I would have persevered with my plan to be a beautician instead of a pharmacist then medical doctor.

So how can a non-math minded student be helped to succeed in math? For three years of high school math, I had an amazing teacher by the name of Mrs. Jackson; she determined my career course by teaching this air-headed girl advanced math. I’d like to share some tips I use in my homeschool today that I learned from her. Most of them will work for parents wanting to help their traditionally schooled children as well. Please, look at their math papers.

1. We’ll start off easy. First, teach kids to use their paper properly. This is no time to be saving trees.

  • When kids transition to using lined paper, teach them to fold the paper in half lengthwise (skinny-wise). Have students work problems vertically down the left half first, using the red line as their margin. Then, they work down the right-half column, with the fold-crease functioning as the left hand margin. When that side is filled up, flip the paper over and carry on.
  • Teach students to take AS MANY LINES as they need to show all their work. NO SQUEEZING or smooshing stuff in. If one algebra problem takes 3/4 of one side of the paper, then that’s what it takes.
  • Leave at least one space between problems, including long division problems.

2. Math needs a plumb-line. Enforce meticulous lining up of addition problems, subtraction problems, and decimal points.

  • Places must be lined up exactly under each other. Ones’ places under ones’ places. Tens’ places under tens’ places. Hundreds’ places under hundreds’. Not a hair out of line.
  • Decimal points must be perfectly aligned one under the other. Not a hair out of line.

3. To erase means to erase. Please–show some good erasing effort, and for Pete’s sake, never do math in pen.

Stray marks can look like decimal points or negative signs and cause errors.

4. Misery loves company. Show them how it’s done.

Mrs. Jackson always taught the new lesson on the chalk board. When she worked a problem, she never skipped any steps. She never worked it half-way and said, “Oh, you get it from here.” Never. Ever. I believe this was important for two reasons, First, when kids learn new concepts, for some reason, they tend to lose focus of older, easier concepts that they should know. Secondly, sometimes kids make it through topics with knowledge gaps. Showing all steps of the problem, including the easy, mundane parts, helps reinforce any gaps that may persist (such as canceling, reducing, dividing fractions, and so on).

She also didn’t skimp on the number of problems she did with us on the chalk board. I’d say she did about 5-10 problems a day on the board with us, mostly the new topic but also a little bit of the old ones as well.

Can you hand kids the book and a CD-ROM and say, “Go.”? Yes, you can. But I have my doubts that non-math minds will flourish this way. If you can’t teach it, I suggest finding a lively friend, tutor, local high school or community college, or a live internet class (and verify the teacher is kind and available to offer help before signing them up) who can.

And lastly on this suggestion, I’ve taken to using our chalk wall to teach math. It has been very helpful.

5. Have them copy the original problem down nearly every time.

6. Don’t allow skipping any steps when solving a problem.

Kids buck at this one, especially when the answer is obvious or if they’re especially math-minded, but Mrs. Jackson was firm. No skipping steps. (As they advance in math, eventually yes, more steps are skipped.)

7. Teachers and parents, remember, we have done more math problems in our lives than we’ve eaten meals. Don’t be condescending. Don’t let your frustration show. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.

Twelve times twelve is not at instant recall for kids. Long division sucks. Do not become angry when the kids can’t seem to get it. When they make the SAME mistake over and over again, like dropping a negative sign or adding fraction denominators. It is VERY easy to call it lazy, careless, stupid, etc. I wouldn’t do it. Okay. I’ve done it. But I always apologize, call hard to my inner child to help me remember what it was like, and then encourage. No child ever wants to fail. And all your belittling and criticism does is lead them to anger and/or feelings of failure. Is that really what you want?

8. Calculators don’t come until you hit real algebra I.

9. Check their work daily and give feedback.

10. Math must be done regularly.

11. Math takes from about one to two hours a day.

Don’t try to rush it. Yeah, that’s a long time, especially for a homeschooler who thinks school should be done by noon.

12. Push students to their edge, and change it up or slow down when you meet resistance (meaning they think it’s too hard or they start missing too many problems). How can you change it up or slow down? 

  • Spend two or three days on a problem set instead of one.
  • Skip mundane, easy-for-them problems.
  • If they keep missing the same kinds of problems, then find supplemental problems for them to work on instead of moving forward in the book.
  • Do math only 2-3 times per week for a while.
  • Take a week off or two.
  • Do lots of problems on the chalk board together. Maybe see if they can do the work on their paper faster than you can on the board. Or have them do the work on the board while you watch.
  • Somehow expose them to other kids doing the same kind of work. Often, homeschooled kids who take extra-curricular activities can hear their public school comrades complain about math, and somehow, this make the homeschooled kid feel better.
  • Give them a test.

Closing

You don’t have to view your kids’ education as your job. You don’t. Throw your hands up in the air and say, “Enough’s enough. It’s not my problem. Nobody needs algebra in the real world anyway.” But take it from someone whose non-college educated parents gave it all they had to make sure that their daughter was doing as well as she could in math. How parents handle their kids’ education leaves a lasting impression. How will your kids remember you on this matter? School is the BIGGEST part of their lives right now. Are you showing them you’re interested in it?

Non-math minded kids can succeed at advanced math. And I feel they contribute such a unique aspect to the science and medical fields. So get them going!

Terri

A Letter To My Kids About Food

Dear Kids,

I love you so much. I see all the amazing things you are going to do and all the amazing people that you, as amazing people, are going to touch. I see all the brilliant, creative, and even practical ideas that you daily produce and will continue to produce for yourselves and the world. You are each precious to my heart. I often wonder how God can love each one of us human beings as special entities–and yet none more special than the next–and here, in my heart, I feel a meager bit of that bottomless capability. When compared to each other, you are each so different, but in my heart, you are loved with the same love.

What I want for you is to live boldly and freely, living up to your potential. Over the last four years, I have learned that for me to do so I must eat a real, whole food diet adjusted for some food sensitivities I have picked up (or maybe I was born with, I don’t know). You know how persistent I have been in keeping our diets clean, real, and whole. I do this because I see the effects it has on our allergies, our headaches, our stomach aches, our bowel control, our joint aches, our asthma, our skin rashes, our immune systems, and even our moods and concentration.

In essence, I persevere because I know now that what we all eat contributes to how well we can participate in life. And I want you all in.

Dear daughters, I want to tell you what I have told myself as I feed you to go do your work in life. Maybe it will help you when you have your own kids. Maybe it will help you now.

 

    Encourage and provide tons of vegetables and fruits.

Pay attention to which ones the kids like and how they like them prepared, making sure to keep those in the food line-up, while introducing new ones to stretch the taste buds.

Make it a goal to not buy pre-packaged foods. Give extra effort to buy whole foods without labels.  

I’ll admit we almost never reach our goal of “no labels,” but having this goal makes us very aware of our purchases and motivates us all to read labels. I love it when you pick up something packaged, and then put it down, saying, “Oh, we can make this. We don’t need to buy it.”

Don’t keep a lot of snack foods on hand other than nuts, vegetables, and fruit (seaweed is fun too), but respect kids’ needs for snacks.

I know the human liver was designed to certainly give three to four hours’ worth of glucose streaming in with no trouble. Perpetual snacks are not necessary in a healthy individual doing regular activities. However, sometimes, lunch was too small. Or supper not to the liking. Or volleyball camp consumed extra energy. Or friends are over. You name it. A well-placed snack is a good snack. But constant, mindless snacking is no good for the body.

Most kids like sweet stuff.

I’ve noticed you eat much better overall when you don’t feel deprived. I’ve also noticed you love a good smelling kitchen. Keeping you on track is easier when I prepare a dessert or sweet every now and then. How often? I honestly can’t say. I watch cues, and I know.

On vacations and certain occasions, step out of the way, letting kids enjoy the moment and the time with family and friends with abandon.

Sure, in the long haul, if a kid never ate ice cream or birthday cake or drank a soda pop, it’d be healthier. And there are probably some kids who will strike that path because of their parents’ rules. Then, there are kids who will just sneak it. Eat it with guilt and shame. Or break free at 18 from all the confinements. You can lie to your parents, but you can’t lie to the body. So eat some, then let it rest. For most people (not all), the body can handle an occasional gluttonous feast.

Do not equate food with body size or self-image. At the most basic level, food is eaten for the body to work right. (Most of the people we love most aren’t skinny.)

It seems like no matter what, somehow, everyone wants to bring it back to size and fat and how you look. I’d be lying if I said society doesn’t care about that. I try not to lie to you. But think about it. Most of the people we love the most aren’t skinny, so love and skinny can’t be equated. (It’s okay, you skinny friends. We adore you too!) Function is the most important, and whole, real food provides nutrition to keep those we love hiking and walking with us—and the processed foods keep them from doing exactly that.

Model real, whole food eating as a parent.

     Sometimes, you just have to say no.

One pediatrician I trained with always told parents, “If they’re told ‘no’ at 2, they’ll accept it at 16.”

I’ll tell you, once Halloween hits, the sugar bliss doesn’t want to stop until after Easter. I’ve seen the effects of all that stuff on your skin, stomachs, and noses. Sometimes, I have to be the meanie and say no.

Realize that even “healthy” things aren’t healthy for all people.

Food sensitivities are everywhere. For some, dairy is very health-promoting; for others, it flares up asthma. For some, whole grains lead to great energy; for others, grains, including whole grains, lead to listlessness and headaches. Sometimes, a parent will tend to think that how they eat is best, which may not actually be best for everyone, including their children. You know that I have a daughter who thrives on meat. I have another who doesn’t. Forcing one into one pattern and the other into another pattern could be highly detrimental to your lifelong eating patterns and health. Best to encourage you all to keep it real, not processed, and as fresh as possible, with awareness of food sensitivities.

     Teach what you know in the kitchen about cooking and actually talk about nutrition.

Life is not about food. It’s about living with your whole heart.

Love,

Mom

 

When Homeschooling Goes Bad

sign_slow_15_mph_000_0080Is your homeschool havin’ a bad, bad day? Every day? I’m not going to say it’s okay or that you should just be calm and relax about it. I don’t relax much about anything. Ha! No way! I’m a constant problem solver.

But I am going to say, “You’re not alone!” Oooh, doesn’t that feel nice? You’re not alone! I’ve had my share of bad homeschooling days. All of last year was a bad homeschooling dream. I remember Googling homeschooling blogs to see what other moms did when they had a toddler underfoot. What I walked away with was, “It’s okay, Sugar. Your kids will learn. Being together, happily singing, babysitting, and doing housework is more important than fretting.”

Just like I can’t sit with too many bad homeschooling days, neither can I chill like that. Here’s my top five suggestions for dealing with a homeschool gone bad.

1. Change up the curriculum: It’s not “the best” curriculum, but it works for us.

Who has TIME to use Susan Wise Bauer’s First Language Lessons? Or Charlotte Mason’s “living books” idea to teach?  I think it was another life (the vision is cloudy, but more like ten lives ago, actually) when I cozied up on the couch with two little angels (er, maybe it was another universe) flanking me on either side to read aloud. Twenty lives ago we used to cut and paste crafts and lapbooks. Maybe that wasn’t me at all! Maybe that was some pretty dream I had thirty lives ago!

With four kids, our curriculum needs have changed. Whether I like it or not, whether the kids like it or not, we have to move towards each child, young ones included (you should see our baby clean toilets!), doing more independent work. I feel like some of my homeschooling ideals have been compromised because I teach less, but since my top ideal is a lifelong love of learning, we’re safe. That’s intact.

I’ve had to mostly ditch my self-designed, teacher led spelling curriculum for my third daughter, who is an exceptionally motivated young student. My choice? An Evan Moore spelling workbook. Is it “the best” workbook? No. Is it “the best” spelling program? No. Will she be a fine speller? Yes. And I don’t have time to do all that spelling jazz, nor does she need me to.

We’ve ditched Institute for Excellence in Writing for a time, maybe a very long time. I just couldn’t get read up on the lessons anymore to assign them their work. So I found some journal writing prompts on-line and now they write these several times a week, while I check it for grammar. It’s my Institute for Sanity in Writing.  (Interestingly enough, this has been lots of fun! Their creativity has taken off, and they often let me be privy to some very deep, personal thoughts and dreams!)

Other things I’ve done in our curriculum include: not trying to do too much grammar and writing at the same time, taking breaks from Saxon math for focused worksheets, covering less subjects at a time.

2. Put your third hand down: The phone. The phone. The phone is on fire.

The phone. The phone. The phone. You know it. I know it. We’re both looking sheepish. The phone must go. Set it on “do not disturb” and check it at set times each day. Yes, it feels good to be needed. It is fun to get hot news off the press. Heart lifting to hear from an old friend. But I’m pretty sure the phone has killed more grooving homeschool lessons than there are dust mites in my pillow. (That’s a lot. Since we have allergies, we use dust mite protective cases, wash them on sanitize, and dry them on hot. Unrelated. Sorry. My husband says I always share too much information…but maybe it will help you?)

3. Schedule appointments in the afternoon: “No. I can’t come to that appointment! Do you have a three o’clock?”

I’ve finally accepted that any appointments need to be in the afternoon. That was bitter for me to swallow, because I like to get the early appointments when the doctor may still be on schedule. I thought by getting the appointment in the morning, we’d get it over with and school would rock on. It never happened that way. I’ve found it best to keep our morning schedule (that’s when we do “the hard stuff”) the same and fiddle with the afternoon schedule. School goes well that way, and we get our appointments in.

4. Find some childcare or housework help: “Get the baby off the top of the refrigerator!”

Last year, I struggled through the year with a toddler. It was not a new experience for me. I have four kids; I’ve taught with a toddler underfoot before! Of course, I didn’t like it then either, BUT at least then I was not trying to teach algebra, long division, and more advanced writing skills.

My toddler can be so loud and obstinate when she knows what she wants. And she wanted her sisters! This didn’t work well for my distractible child, who couldn’t focus with the toddler’s screaming, or my bleeding heart child, who hated to hear the screaming from the pack-and-play (where the toddler goes when she won’t stop fussing). I just couldn’t win.

It wasn’t working. Not for me. Not for the kids. Not for the toddler. So I got help this school year. I know we can’t all afford help, but any help will do. If you can find a way for someone to keep the toddler busy so you can teach the others for even an hour without an interruption, you’ll feel so much better! A woman from church? Another homeschooling pre-teen? Swapping kids back and forth with a homeschooling friend; she takes your littles one day so you can teach the bigs and vice versa. Or even having someone come in and do a load of laundry for you or prep some meals.

With the help, our school is feeling nice again. I actually have time to print off some worksheets from the internet. I have time to write down a lesson plan. I have time to drill flashcards. If you can, get help. Then, you can breathe. Breathing helps. Breathing is good. Trust me. (And here you’ve been wondering why you’d been feeling so bad… 🙂 )

5. Get some real help: You can’t do it alone and there’s a lot at stake!

Sometimes, more than you need help with laundry or impetuous, climbing, dangerous-to-themselves toddlers, you need help understanding and relating to one of your emerging older children. The anger outbursts, the seemingly laziness, the insolence–it’s overwhelming you and completely impeding learning. (Read here and here and here for my take on dealing with adolescents. Oh, and here when they say they hate you…)

Sure, sending them away to school is an option. It’s the option of least resistance, which does NOTHING to change coping mechanisms that are being set FOR LIFE.  Or does nothing to change your mechanisms which have been set and need changed so your family can live harmoniously together. As much as we like our friends and we need them, it is the family unit which all so much crave to have intact and at peace.

Don’t be afraid to get professional counsel. Alcoholics, borderlines, depressives, manic depressives, abusive adults—they don’t happen overnight. They happen with the pressures of life. Give yourself and your kids a chance to learn new coping skills when you see they’re needed. Ask a pastor or counselor for professional help!

Conclusion

You can do it! I ran out of time for more, but leave your best tips in the comments for others to learn from!

And also, if you decide you simply can’t do it, then don’t be silly and beat yourself up! There are tons of things you can do that I can’t! It’s what makes life fun! Do your best and learn when to let go! Now, go hug your kids today. Mine are milling in the kitchen, so I’m off this box!

Terri

Image credit: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Betacommand. Found on Wikipedia.

Give Your Kid a Brain Edge

Vertumnus_årstidernas_gud_målad_av_Guiseppe_Arcimboldo_1591_-_Skoklosters_slott_-_91503.tif

Want to give your kid a brain up? I know we think about waistlines and cavities when we think about junk food, but we really need to be giving thought to THE BRAIN!

A brain is a precious thing to waste, but indeed as parents, we are doing just that with our dangerous eating and feeding habits. The food a child eats nourishes his or her gut bacteria (or doesn’t). Then, by-products and interactions of the child’s own gut bacteria feeds forward to interact with the function and development of his or her brain.

Stomach. Brain. Connected.

Fiber Helps the Brain

Research supports that high fiber foods– and I ALWAYS suggest that any nutrient (including fiber) be eaten in NATURAL, WHOLE food forms (cook ’em, saute ’em, roast ’em, bake ’em, eat ’em raw—-don’t care–just eat them)– contribute to children’s “cognitive control.”

Cognitive control? Sounds spooky. What the heck is cognitive control? Some sort of mind straight-jacket?

Ha! NO!!! It’s simply a scientific way to say: the ability to adapt to a situation and make good decisions, to execute better behavior in it, and the ability to perform a task well.

Can anyone say, “Make a bed!” or “Put away the silverware!” or “Do your math homework!” or even “Hold still!”? All those, and so much more, require a person’s cognitive control. His or her ability to complete a task properly, to reason it out, to put a brake on talking and moving when talking and moving aren’t appropriate in the moment.

According to a study in The Journal of Nutrition, “Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children“, dietary fiber may play a role in cognitive control among children. The children in this study, ages 7-9, who ate more total dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, and pectin performed better on the selected performance task in the study. (The performance task wasn’t making a bed but I think it should have been…)

A big, bad, sad 90% of American children do not get even close to the recommended fiber intake set (ranging for about 20 grams to 38 grams, depending on the age and sex)! AND the sources that most people turn to for fiber (breakfast cereal laden with sugar) is a sickening poor fiber food source for the gut bacteria.

[I also disagree with the use of bread for fiber, unless the bread is honest and pure. I’m sitting here looking at the bread label in my parents’ home and this is what I see: enriched unbleached flour (refined flour), high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, monoglycerides, sweet dairy whey, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, calcium propionate, natural and artificial flavor, calcium sulfate, citric acid, ascorbic acid, soy lecithin, and so on.

This is NOT bread. I do not know what exactly this is. But it is NOT bread. I have made plenty of bread in my life, and I did so with about five or less ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. If I got fancy, I added eggs, milk, and butter or olive oil. You must seek out the ingredient list and not rely on the large print on the front that ways, “Whole grain bread!”]

Where to get “Fiber”

What do I suggest instead? Real, whole food rich in plant matter (Always keeping in mind what is tolerated by an individual. I know many people don’t tolerate nuts or legumes or certain vegetables. But there IS something a person can tolerate. Find it.). Good examples:

  • Greens and lettuces
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Apples, oranges, blueberries, cherries, grapes (all fruits higher in pectin)
  • Carrots and parsnips
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard squashes
  • Nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Avocados
  • Peas, beans, lentils
  • Real, honest, pure whole grains: pure oatmeal, pure quinoa, pure wheat
  • Dried fruits: raisins, figs, apricots

Not a Matter of Your Parenting

When we feed kids diets low in lots of vegetables, fruits, and fresh produce, it’s not just a matter of “good mom”, “bad-mom.” It has nothing to do with you, mom! We’re talking about your kids. I am not here to define your parenthood by your nutritional choices.

But please know when kids don’t eat plant matter as close to the way it is found in nature, they miss out on all these complex fibers that scientists are realizing now affect us by affecting our gut bacteria. And the gut bacteria affect the development of the brain.

When your kid fusses and you want to throw in the towel and let him eat macaroni and cheese every day, realize the role you are playing in the complete development of your child’s brain, at a time when really, what goes in their mouth is mostly up to you and the groceries you bring home.

Persist, mother. Persist, father. A secure child is a child who knows that their parents will never give up on them. Your persistence and devotion is your greatest asset! Don’t stop just because of some pouting.

Be creative. Be firm. Be funny. Be loving. Be stubborn. Give rewards. Withhold rewards.

Do what it takes with love and compassion to get them there.

Your child’s gut microbiome is overwhelmingly tied to the health and function of his or her brain. Don’t give up on vegetables and fruits.

The brain of your child is at stake.

Good luck! Questions always welcomed.

Terri

 

Citation:

Kahn, Raine, et al. Journal of Nutrition. Dietary Fiber is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children.  January 1, 2015 vol. 145 no. 1 143-149: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/145/1/143

Image from Wikipedia: Giuseppe Arcimboldo [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Should the Color Cops Shut Up?

On colorings“Mom, they ran out of water, so Dad let us have grape soda pop!”

I didn’t blink an eye, hugged them all, and said WHAT a wonderful treat that was. . .

Within an hour, my husband was at the end of his parenting rope, looking at me, frustrated, as one of my daughters pummeled him and threw a verbal tirade. Before he said anything rash that he’d regret, I pulled the miniature Incredible Hulk off of him and simply said, “Red dye plus blue dye equals purple soda pop. . .”

[And wouldn’t that be a great post for another day! Knowing that your child is acting out because of the food they were fed—yet still requiring discipline—how do you balance that?]

. . .I’d like to say I walk this whole, real alternative food path out of sheer integrity, but in all honesty, I walk it because certain foods make my family uncomfortable or sick. I seek to understand why, and share what I learn with others along the way. Red 40 food dye gives my family problems. So let’s look at life after 40. . .

(I’ve written another Molly Green Magazine article! Click this link to be taken to the page, and then click on “open article” on the upper left of the “magazine” to get it big enough to read! It looks lovely with the awesome graphics. The article covers a little personal experience with food dye, historical aspects of food dyes, what research shows on food dyes, bad food dye reactions, and why some people react to food dyes and others don’t–which could involve gut bacteria for you microbiome lovers. I’ve continued with snippets below for you to get an idea of the content.)

What About Copper Pickles?

. . . Believe it or not, you’ve about always needed a science degree to meal-plan for your family. Food colorings used throughout ancient and modern history have been sketchy and often downright lethal. The food colorings we use today look mild in comparison.

First of all, why use color at all? Food coloring is 100 percent unnecessary, but the color of food is intrinsic to human attraction. Ever bite into some anticipated tangy lemon pudding, only to realize it was banana? Ever eat a green blueberry? Remember clear cola? Color speaks, and we know the ancient Egyptians and Romans relied on saffron, carrots, henna, and alum (a form of aluminum) to color their feasts.

In the Middle Ages, things darkened a bit—or, maybe I should say, lightened. . .

(Read on for more about mercury candy and lethal copper pickles . . .)

Kid with candy

Washout after a Weekend at Granny’s House

. . . Do your kids get a little grace period and washout time after a weekend with the grandparents? Mine do. Whether it’s the lack of sleep, extra sugar, or artificial food dyes, I don’t know. . .

(Read on for more about research on colorings . . .)

Blue Deaths

. . . Blue 1 caused big concerns in hospitals about twelve years ago when tube-fed patients received Blue 1-tinted liquid food formulations. Serious outcomes of death, dramatic pH changes, refractory low blood pressure, and tinted organs were noted in critically ill patients. . .

(Read on if you’d like to read more about the risks from the different colors.)

Nutrition Counts When It Comes to Colors

. . .Bacteria in our digestive tracts are exceptionally important to us. . .

(Read on to learn how gut bacteria and genes could play a role in how a person’s body deals with food dyes)

The Color Cops

. . .The good news is that the artificial color cops have put so much pressure on manufacturers that many corporations either have or will be eliminating food dyes from their food formulations. . .

So let’s keep pushing forward for our kids and families and finish what King Edward’s generation started. . .

Closing

I couldn’t sell a red Ferrari for a dollar, so you’ll notice I have no ads on my site. I’ll never invite you to a Norwex, Pampered Chef, or essential oil party (I’ll come to yours if I can, though!), but I do want to tell you that I write “for free” for Molly Green Magazine and encourage you to check out their other articles. (The photos for this blog post came from their design for my article in their magazine.) I appreciate having another platform there to share my message that we need to get back to eating and feeding our kids real food. The research is BEYOND clear. In order to get back to health, processed foods HAVE to GO.

If you haven’t cut artificial colors out of your diet, START today! It’s a great step! It’ll get rid of lots of junk right up front!

Terri

Questioning Your Parenting: Part 2

196px-Jamini_Roy_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_ProjectAbout eight years ago I stood in a funeral line for the son of one of the best people I know, Mac, whose young college-aged son had just killed himself. Mac and I worked together in the local hospital, and he was a wonderful, wise mentor for me as a young, new physician. I’ve never known anyone calmer, more patient, or more accepting than Mac. Unpretentious. Giving. Compassionate. Steady.

I’d just popped out a beautiful, feisty, little baby girl not too long before. The irony was not lost on me as I stood in that long, snaking, horrible line. Not on Mac either, I guess. When I finally made the front of the funeral viewing line, Mac looked in me (yes, in me, if that’s possible), with his face in jagged zig-zags, held together simply by sheer human spirit and said: “They don’t tell you about this part when you’re making babies, do they, Terri?”

No, Mac. No, they don’t.

So let’s carry on with my questions. Remember, I’m writing this as a mom who likes to think (probably over-think, as my kids tell me, “Enough already, Mom!”), not as a physician or healthcare provider. Don’t use anything on my site as authoritative knowledge or for treatment. I know you won’t. Onward.

Are you heeding warning signs that counseling or medical intervention is needed, such as suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, or anger that is physically manifested?

I know that teens are often unhappy and restless for no good reason at all! But sometimes there are signs of something deeper, and we can’t just expect frightening adolescent behaviors or words to go away on their own. The earlier we intervene, the easier it is to change faulty mindsets, perceptions, and reactions.  There is NO shame in getting professional help, even if you’ve got one of those “good kids” or everyone thinks you’re the “perfect family.” When a child talks about suicide, get help. When a child acts out sexually, get help. When kids are doing drugs, get help.

Conversely, maybe it’s the adult in the situation who needs help. The things that I’ve seen or heard tweens, teens, and twenty-eens do or say blows my small mind. They can be enraging! If you find yourself losing your temper physically, get help. Even if you find yourself being verbally abusive in response to them, that’s no good. Strong people get help.

Despite the chuckling of seasoned parents, some kids don’t make it. Some parents can’t handle it. Get help when you need it.

Are you asking the hard questions?

One thing I learned early in med school is that you can’t be afraid to ask patients the hard questions. How much alcohol do you drink? Do you use crack, meth, or other drugs? Do you have sex? With who? Do you ever think of death? Hard questions that must be asked to take care of patients best. (I once saw 75-year-old woman using meth. Surprise!)

You THINK you know the answers your kids would give to hard questions, but you MUST ask. Start young. Start early. (But it’s never too late.)

Yes, it’s uncomfortable. It gets easier.

Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a girlfriend? Is there someone you like? Are you feeling sad inside? Have you ever been asked to take drugs? Do you even know what drugs are? Do you think you’ll start your period soon? Are you scared about your body? Are you scared about your feelings? Do you know God loves you? Are you scared God doesn’t exist?

Ask the hard questions.

Are you listening?

Kids talk all the time. I can still hear mine talking even when they’re not talking!

Talk, talk. Listen. Chatter, chatter. Listen. Whine, whine. Listen. Blah, blah, blah. Listen. Problem, problem! Listen.

Problem, REAL problem, Mom!? I’ve got this daughter. I’m listening. I’ve been listening the whole time. 

Listen even when it hurts your head. You’ll be surprised at how a listening environment will bring your children to you at the tough times. You don’t listen in the easy times, you won’t be trusted with the tough times.

Are you yourself seeking support and encouragement?

If you open up to the right people, you’ll be amazed at the powerful insight that those who have walked this path before you have gained. Even when it comes to heavy stuff like pre-marital sex and suicidal thoughts, these parents may surprise you with what their kids told them or did when they were growing up. They’re a treasure chest of support.

Are you letting go of your attachments?

I have an image of how I want my daughters to be, whether that’s how they are or not–or even can be. It’s based on what I think is important, what I think is important to survive and excel in this world, and ideas I’ve picked up from my church background.  I’m attached to certain ideas for them. How they dress. How they talk. How nice and kind they are. How their education is. What activities they’re in. Who their friends are. How organized they are. If they go to college. What they go to college for. And so on. These are MY attachments overlaid on my children.

Not too long ago I was thinking about what kind of dad Gandhi had been, as he clearly endeavored for peace and was considered a “good” person. Reading about his relationship with his children made me stop and think about how I impose my attachments on my children.

In my brief reading, I saw Gandhi struggled significantly with his first son, who ended up with a very sad, tumultuous life. Gandhi imposed his acquired “enlightenment” standards on his family, which was not necessarily wrong, as he had exceptionally good reasons. But sometimes things just don’t fit, and by holding fast to his pretty severe principles, Gandhi alienated his son.

I believe children can tell when it’s YOUR attachment coming through, not necessarily what is best for them.

Conclusion

I’m about done, I think. I had a few more questions I explored but have run out of room to elaborate on:

  • Are you creating consistent boundaries and sticking to them?
  • Are you working on rooting out negative self-talk in the house?
  • Are you being creative in your parenting?
  • Are you providing spiritual guidance?

I hope you’ve enjoyed the “I Hate You” post, the more scientific “Adolescent Brain” post, and the two “Question” posts. I’ll be back to food and bacteria next, I believe.

But I’ll leave you with just a few more questions, because, remember what Mac said: “They don’t tell you about this part when your’e making babies, do they?”

In what ways can I make myself more approachable? In what areas are my kids interested in that I could show a little more interest? In which areas could I look for more information to try to understand them better?

Terri

Photo credit: PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38370457

Questioning Your Parenting. Part 1.

push-buttons

Mph. Agh. Ouchie. Eeeeow!

Huh. Tragic. There’s no stuffin’ ‘em back in now,  is there!? You are stuck on the parenting conveyor belt for the . . . rest . . . of . . . your . . . life.

(Speaking of conveyor belts, have you ever seen Lucy’s Famous Chocolate Scene? The best Lucy episode ever. I watch it about once a month and never fail to belly laugh.)

I love parenting. I love my kids. I love my life. It’s all good. However, my oldest kids have transitioned to this tween period, and I’ve had some new challenges thrown at me that I guess I just didn’t anticipate, partly because I figured homeschooling would buffer us and partly because I try to keep in-tune with my kids. Guess that’ll show me, won’t it!?

My last post was on the science of the truly changing adolescent brain. Simply amazing! However, dealing with that anger-prone brain lacking frontal control can be simply exhausting! So I’ve been working on some questions, with the help of friends and family (and you), to help me through this time. Take a gander…

Do you need to unwire your buttons?

Something your kid did or said got you mad, sad, angry, guilty, resentful, or hurt? Then your buttons have been pushed! A friend of mine received wonderful button advice when raising her now grown son:

“When my first-born son turned 12, a friend of mine told me, “You are no longer entitled to have any buttons. Remove them all from your psyche. If you have any buttons HE WILL FIND THEM. You are then to say, ‘Oh, why thank you, son, for pointing out that I have a button there, I will remove it forthwith!’”

What are some commonly wired buttons?

  • The Guilt Button
  • The Disrespectful Kid Button
  • The This Parent is Being Taken for Granted Button
  • The Character Attack Button (Often pushed when you’re called controlling or a liar–or worse, a controlling liar!)
  • The I’m Being Lied to Button
  • The Messy Button
  • The My Kid is Lazy Button
  • The Gimme’ Button (Usually pushed when a string of “needed,” unrelated things comes out their mouths in the course of less than 5 minutes)
  • The I Hate Running Late Button
  • The Trying to Be Fair Button (Usually pushed when one kid gets something “special” and the others think they never do)
  • My Kid’s Become a Brat Button

Got any of those buttons? Got any others? In the heat of the moment, I’ve been trying to pause and internally give a name to the button my tweens are pushing, making a visual image of me unwiring that button (Sometimes I visualize the button on my head, sometimes on my heart, and sometimes in my stomach, whatever, weird, I know.), so it can’t be a source of angst for me anymore. Then, I am better at ignoring what needs to be ignored, calmly (more calmly, anyhow) addressing what I can address at the time, or running upstairs as fast as I can so I don’t say meaner, nastier things than my kids.

Bottom Line: JAM your buttons so they don’t have anything to push.

Does your child need alone time with you?

One daughter kept asking for some alone time with me. I was like, “Yeah. Yeah. We’ll get that.” Honestly, I was thinking, “Uh. It’s a family of six, one being a toddler. You don’t get alone time with me. Doesn’t homeschooling count?” But I made some time to go out with her and each other older child alone.

Every family is different, but I think one of my big problems was the time consumed by a toddler. Split parenting (That’s the term for parenting kids in different stages of life, I guess.) does not seem to be my forte. Guess it doesn’t matter what the reason, I learned that kids need a bit of alone time with me. So I’ve made a point to go out for coffee with one, go shopping with another, leave the others at home while I drive just the one to a practice, and so on.

Other moms have shared with me that alone time can be as simple as a trip to the grocery store with just one riding shot-gun, working at a boring, tedious chore side-by-side, or lying beside them late at night right before bed (when you’re really exhausted and simply want to sleep). I can vouch they seem to talk more right before bed when I need toothpicks for my eyes.

Do you take it as about you? (It’s not about you ,even if they try to make it about you.)  

It’s easy to take this challenging time as a reflection of your parenting and allow yourself to have a pity party wondering what YOU did wrong. How could YOUR child treat YOU so badly? What did YOU do? How did YOU ruin YOUR child for life? How did YOU create such a villain?

I know my kids are loved, provided for, safe, nurtured, rarely yelled at, rarely criticized, have some laundry and dishes to do, have appropriate boundaries, still have a few wants (as in they don’t have everything), and so on and so forth. I know my kids aren’t bullied at school or being picked on by a teacher. And yet, my kids are still turning inside-out on me, often accusing me of their suffering! One’s a melancholy and the other is a viper. (Unless the guidance counselor–that’s me–has dealt with two crying tweens, it’s not a complete day.)

So I’ve decided this time isn’t about me being a bad mom as much as it is about my kids learning to get away from a good mom. The best way for life to separate me and my kids is to make me unlikable to them—and them unlikable to me! (It’s working! Ha! “Go away! Come back with the grandkids.”)

Yet, I’ll nurse them (and me) along in their confusion and anger, proving to them that love is unconditional—but it can still get its feelings hurt! Nancy Rue, a writer of tween self-help books, writes that the numerous tweens she has interviewed want two things from their parents (even when they seem to push parents away): daily hugs and some time alone with them.

Hey. That sounds like it’s all about them!

Are you fostering independence?

What if they get smashed crossing that busy street? What if they browse bad internet sites? What if they get molested at a sleepover? What if they don’t choose their class college schedule right, costing you another thousand bucks or more? What if they major in art and live with you forever?

There’s no right answer, but if your kid is telling you she feels controlled and overprotected, it might be time to listen and start some negotiations. Each day of a child’s life should bring her closer in some way to independence from your home.

I’ve noticed they thrive better when I get them out of the house to a friend’s house or hanging out with another adult, helping them with a job or learning a skill from them.

To be continued . . . Next up will be exploring: Even good kids need help, letting go of our attachments for our children, and doorways without doors.

Terri