Archives for May 2012

Sibling Squabbles – Teachable Moments Worth the Effort

Our family is sitting down for a delicious Memorial Day barbeque feast with all of the fixings and something is just not right. The food looks great, smells yummy, and tastes delicious but both my husband and I are finding it difficult to enjoy our meal. Why, you ask? Well, our two oldest children are having a very difficult time tolerating each other at the dinner table.

“Scoot over!”, my eldest commands.

“Why should I?”, my middle child retorts.

“Mom! He will not scoot over and give me more room to eat.”, complains my eldest urgently.

“I am as far over over as I can be.”, replies my 8-year-old. “You don’t need any more space!”

In a situation such as this, my husband and I feel willing to do almost anything to get some resolution in order to enjoy our meal (we worked hard preparing it and were ready to reap the mouth-watering rewards). However, we both know better. This is what many parent educators would call a “teachable moment”- a time to use the current circumstances as a springboard for teaching our children how to compromise and communicate effectively in order to solve their differences, no matter how petty they may seem to us at the time.

First, it is best to understand the causes of sibling rivalry. Then we can begin to work on more specific ways to help our children resolve their conflicts appropriately and effectively. We must also consider the ages and developmental stages that our children are in at the time. The younger the child, the more they will need our help and coaching when dealing with sibling conflict. Once we begin this process, as our children mature and use the skills we are teaching them they will gain the specific conflict-resolution skills  necessary to successfully resolve sibling conflicts with less help from us.  Additionally, these skills will help our children successfully navigate adult interpersonal conflict they will encounter in the future. In other words, if we put the energy into our parenting efforts now it has benefits (for us as well as our children) later on.

University of Michigan Health System, has posted a wonderful article titled, Sibling Rivalry. It is packed with useful information on understanding the causes of sibling rivalry and the things parents can do to help our children resolve their differences effectively.

Reading the article has put our family on the path to stress-free family dinners that everyone can enjoy.


Let’s Talk About Sex…

It’s the time of year in our school district that all fifth graders will begin a unit on human reproduction and development.

And this year I have a fifth grader. A bright, energetic, social fifth grade girl who wants to spend her time listening to her favorite songs on the radio, reading and rereading her favorite books, and spending time with her best friend. The last thing on her mind is human reproduction (aka sex). So I have to wonder. Why am I getting ready to have this conversation with her if she has not even expressed an interest in the subject? Am I trying to get my two cents in before the school does? Am I trying to preempt any “mis”information that may be given to her by her peers? What is my parenting goal in relation to this discussion?

After a few minutes of searching for answers to these questions mentally, I decide that I am merely going to begin a dialogue with my “tween” daughter that I hope will continue as long as necessary. I would like for my daughter to feel comfortable asking myself or her father when she has questions about sex as she matures and develops into a young lady.

But before sitting down with her I stop to get some advice from the “experts”. One of the places I look is the AACP website.  An article titled “Talking to Your Kids About Sex” outlines the various ways a discussion about sex may sound at different stages of child development. The author suggests that parents discuss only what the child is asking and is ready to understand, taking into account their age and maturity. No more and no less. Additionally, the article lists the following tips for talking with your child about sex:

  • Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.
  • Maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
  • Use words that are understandable and comfortable.
  • Try to determine your child’s level of knowledge and understanding.
  • Keep your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to talk about your own discomfort.
  • Relate sex to love, intimacy, caring, and respect for oneself and one’s partner.
  • Be open in sharing your values and concerns.
  • Discuss the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
  • Help your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.

So now I am armed with confidence,  tips, and a few good books recommended by close friends with older children. I plop down in a chair in her room, while she eagerly looks up at me with innocent 10-year-old eyes.

Let’s talk about sex…



Mom Enough? Really?

On the eve of Mother’s Day, I found myself asking “Am I mom enough?” yet again.

As I checked out the cover of this week’s issue of Time magazine, I was plagued by images of what is meant by this statement. I thought about family members that advised me on “tough love” and letting my children “cry it out”. As I saw the image of the “cover-mom” nursing her three-year-old son I wondered what it meant to be “mom enough” and why we are having this tone of social discourse about motherhood. It seems to me that motherhood includes the decisions we make and the things we do that make lasting positive impressions on our children’s lives and well being. And because we are individuals with unique combinations of: cultures, histories, education, experiences and life situations (both positive and negative) these parenting decisions will be different for every mom.

When we begin to ask questions like “Are you mom enough?” whether in a true or satirical manner we begin to place judgements and value on the various styles of parenting that are practiced all over the world. And this environment is a breeding ground for competitiveness rather than support. Why do we do this to ourselves? Parenting is such an intense labor of love that we sometimes begin to internalize the comments (both positive and negative) that are made about our parenting decisions and practices and assume that these comments are a measure of our personal worth. Have you ever walked away from a conversation with another parent feeling like you are not a “good mother”? This feeling can be cumbersome and hard to shake off at times. When this happens I find it hard to focus on the things that I do well as a mother. This can put me in a downward spiral where my feelings begin to dictate my actions, I feel worse, I loose sight of the things I know to be good parenting practice, and  act accordingly. I am then left with less confidence in my parenting skills and the cycle continues. I usually need some encouraging event or comment from my peers to put me back in a confident positive “mommy mode”.

This Mother’s Day, I challenge every mother to reflect on the things we can do to encourage and support each other as mothers. Instead of asking “Am I mom enough?” let’s ask “Am I supportive enough?” Look for the positive things every mother is doing for the good of her children and tell her so. Thank her. Encourage her. Praise her. Because we all need reinforcement when the going gets tough. Motherhood is not a competition. It is a state of being. So let’s BE positive. Let’s BE supportive. After all, it takes a village…


For the Love of Reading

I LOVE to read.

My 10 year old daughter LOVES to read.

My 8 year old son will read if he has to. How is this possible? I ask myself. He is such a successful reader. Why doesn’t he enjoy reading?

Sometimes I wonder what makes my children’s enthusiasm for reading so different. I read to each of them regularly as babies and I continue to read to them to this day. As an educator, I know the things that parents can do to promote early literacy: read to your child every day, talk to your child, sing to your child, play games with your child, let your child see you enjoy reading etc.  I did (and still do) these things with all three of my children.

I understand that siblings may be related but they are individual beings and have unique desires and motivations. But deep down inside I would like to see my son get the pleasure out of reading that his older sister and I do.  So I set out to find alternative ways to motivate him to read.

What I discovered is that there are far more reading genres for a child’s reading pleasure than I originally thought. I needed to think outside the box. I needed to consider alternate forms of literature. And I needed to check out what other BOYS that love to read are reading. Yes, sometimes what motivates a boy to read is very different from what motivates a girl to read.

In my search for answers I ran across an insightful article on written by James Patterson (one of my favorite authors) titled How to Get Your Kid to Be a Fanatic Reader. Patterson suggests that parents should take charge of encouraging their children to read,  parents should be role models when it comes to enjoying reading (I’ve got this one covered), and parents should encourage their children (especially boys) to explore alternate reading genres such as, “The Guiness Book of World Records” and the “Sports Illustrated Almanac”.

So I set off to find my son’s reading passion. Several magazine titles later, I discovered that he is highly motivated by Japanese manga or graphic novels. He devours them! I can’t get him to put them down. He begs to go to the library and check them out–five at a time! And that was just the beginning. After this discovery, I have helped my son find similar genres for entertaining reading. Now he enjoys reading and he is motivated to read even when it is not assigned.

My son was not the only one inspired by this reading genre. After watching how much fun my son was having while reading his graphic novels, his older sister and I started reading them as well. Why should he have all the fun?