Archives for October 2014


Sullen tee w/dad

Have you ever been compelled to apologize? As in, “Tell your brother you’re sorry for taking his Transformer?” How did that work out? Did you feel sorry? I didn’t. After all, he said that his Optimus Prime was better than my stupid GoBot (remember GoBots?). I didn’t feel apologetic. I felt hurt. So when I said, “Sorry,” it came out just as lame and insincere as it felt.

Why do we do this, as parents? I’m thinking about the very useful Four Questions, from a training given by Parenting Now in Eugene (Kara wrote about it for this site a couple of years ago). They go like this:

  1. What do I want my child to learn?
  2. Is what I’m doing teaching that?
  3. Are there any negative results from it?
  4. If so, what can I do differently?

Let’s run through it. When I tell my child to apologize for something, what do I want them to learn? I guess I want them to feel sorry, right? I’m trying to instill a sense of right and wrong. But I also want them to know what to do when they cause harm (or perceived harm) to someone else, and to expect the same in return. Fine. So far, so good.

So, is directing the child to apologize accomplishing that? I remember well enough the feeling. Even on the offending end of things, I still felt wronged. No sincerity there. Could it be that the feeling doesn’t come on demand?

Is my child learning the etiquette of apology? Maybe. But what’s more important here? Aren’t we teaching the lesson that we should expect an apology more than how to give one?

Negative results? I didn’t feel sorry. I wanted even more to throw that Transformer out the window. And I felt put upon, and judged.

Okay, so we know what we want to teach. Is there a better way?

There is. It’s called modeling. If we want our kids to learn to apologize, we’ve got to show them how to do it.

Fortunately, there’s a great place to practice telling our children that we’re sorry. It’s called real life.

Wait, why would we, as parents, apologize to our children? Aren’t we supposed to be the authority here? Haven’t we used “because I’m the parent, that’s why” as evidence to back up a claim? Doesn’t being sorry mean that we have made a mistake, that we don’t have everything figured out all the time, that we occasionally slip up?

Exactly. And our children know how it feels to slip up (probably far more than we realize). And more importantly, they will appreciate it when we acknowledge and own up to our own foibles. Apologizing to our children shows them how to deal with mistakes and with behavior that they (and we) know was not appropriate. Once they are given the opportunity to forgive a very human parent, they will feel how important it is to say they’re sorry.

Try it sometime. Don’t worry: there’s no need to create a situation in which to apologize. It’ll come up.


Holiday Survival Tips

This week’s post was submitted by guest blogger Tanya Pritt. We hope that you enjoy it and look for future posts from Tanya.


Christmas will be here in less than 70 days!

It’s hard not to think about Christmas. After all, Macy’s announced on television last week that they will be open on Thanksgiving! Stores are beginning to offer their best decorating options, and tins of holiday cookies and candy are showing up on shelves next to the Halloween treats.

Just the sight of these displays can bring anxiety and stress into our lives. How are we going to do everything we think we need to? How will we afford the presents this year? What do the kiddos even want?

Take a breath! If I have learned anything in my life, it is that January 1 comes and we can all watch football and relax.  Here are a couple of ways we manage stress in our family:

  • Be selective about additional activities. There are so many parties: with work, school, teams, and family. Figure out which would be the most fun and rewarding and attend those. Learn to let the others go.
  • Get enough rest. Set a time to stop activities at night.
  • Make a budget. Stick with it. Don’t apologize. If you feel obligated to buy a gift for outside of your family, don’t buy the gift. Instead, send a hand-written card. Write about a memory you share with that person or family: this will be a gift in itself.
  • Have realistic expectations. Accept the fact that things will go wrong. Kids may have a meltdown, Christmas dinner may not come out as perfectly as you hoped, and people may be disappointed by their presents. My boys are grown now and have their own families, but when we were all together last Christmas I found that, with the gifts I had bought them, I had taken their adulthood for granted. As they were going through the stockings that I had filled the night before, they all looked at each other and said accusingly, ”Mom, where is the new toothbrush?” And they weren’t kidding!
  • Keep it simple. Ask for help. And then let the “helpers” help! Have a family meeting and sort it out early, giving everyone a role to play.
  • Talk to a friend. Take a break from the demands of the holiday and have a conversation. Sharing your feelings with a supportive friend is an important way to relieve holiday stress and anxiety.
  • Be open to collaboration. Make the Christmas meals pot lucks; most people have a favorite recipe and would love to contribute. If someone is crafty, put them in charge of decorations! Children can help as well.
  • When you begin to feel the stress, take a walk around the block. Sometimes just getting physical and breathing fresh air can lend perspective.

As much as children, and even teenagers, want to be surprised by the latest toy or piece of technology, they also feel the love and comforts of tradition. Years from now they may or may not remember the gift they received, but they will recall the temperament in the house, the meals they ate, and the company they kept. Whatever the tradition, however small or elaborate, these are things from which memories are made.

As for me, I am headed to Costco to buy some Halloween candy and a family-size package of toothbrushes to put in my Christmas closet for later!

Tanya has been the Director of Milestones for the past 21 years.  She has been working in the field of addictions for over 30 years. 


Reading With Preschoolers



This week’s blog post is by guest contributor Angie Dixon. We hope that you enjoy her post and we look forward to more of her contributions in the future.


When it comes to reading with young children every family has a different style, a style that is unique to them. Some parents may be devoted readers; others may rarely read, and still others may not know how to read themselves. Regardless, all parents -even those with limited reading skills – can share books with their children. Here are some quick ideas that all parents can use to help teach their children literacy skills.

Family stories. What a great way to teach family values, retell your family history and increase a child’s thinking and listening skills. All children enjoy hearing “When I grew up” stories about their parents, grandparents or other loved ones and friends. Break out the old photo albums to help bring these stories to life.

Children’s stories. Share with your children the story of the day they were born or became part of your family. Tell them how you decided on the name that they have and where it came from, and what they were like as a little baby. What types of food did they like, what were their first words, what were some of their favorite toys?

Picture books. Did you know that a book does not need to have any words in order to tell a story? Picture books are a great way to increase your child’s language skills. Asking simple questions while looking at the pictures can help you create a learning opportunity. “What do you see?” “What is he doing?” “How do you think that made her feel?” “What do you think will happen next?”

Ways to include reading every day:

*Set aside a scheduled time for reading – bedtime or nap time works great.

*Read aloud different things – signs, food labels, directions for mac-n-cheese or even material in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

*Take time to listen to your child pretend to read a book or tell a story based on the pictures.

*Keep books where children can reach them.

*Take a trip to the public library for story time, and stay to explore the shelves with them.


Angie Dixon is a Home Based Specialist in the Therapeutic Early Childhood Program at Family Tree Relief Nursery.


Bedtimes and Balloons



If there is a secret to our parenting, it is bedtime.

There is a lot to say about the importance of calm, consistent bedtime routines, and it’s something I will return to in future posts. A lot of information out there, and I’ve found that most of it is along the same lines. There is a good primer on the Parents website, and another on babycentre, focusing on bedtime for toddlers. It’s British, and that’s okay.

Establishing these routines take time and experimentation. It takes a while to see what works, and as the needs of children change with age, and the seasons (and the light!), what worked in the past may not work now. What didn’t work before may work again later.

It is important in a routine to have signposts, things that signal to a child that it is time to get into the space of bedtime. I light candles in the bedroom (one for each of them because, you know, fairness) and, when they have put on their pajamas and brushed their teeth, they each choose a book to read aloud. When the reading is done, they blow out their candle and get into bed. I spend some time with each of them in turn, and I do this:

It’s a relaxation ritual that I have been using with my daughters every night for the last few months. I keep asking them if they are tired of it, if they want to try something different, but they insist on doing it exactly the same way each night. I think there’s something to be said for the comfort children find in repetition that we adults may not share or understand. Have your kids ever asked you to read the same book or tell the same story over and over?

This is how it goes, word for word. I don’t remember how I came up with it, exactly, but I have to give credit to an episode of Frasier in which a character is asked to put their angry thoughts in a balloon and watch it drift away. It’s a good recurring joke in the show, but I must have thought it might work for bedtime.


Now I want you to take everything that has bothered you throughout the day

(And only you know what those things are)

And I want you to put them inside a balloon.

It can be any kind of balloon you can imagine,

Any shape, any size, any color.

And when you’re ready, I want you to take that balloon outside

And let go of the string

And watch the balloon drift up, and up, and up,

Further and further into the sky,

Until it’s just a little dot

And then it’s gone

Leaving nothing but clear sky.

No more worries,

No more cares,

And you’re ready to rest.