The Best Resources for Inspired Parenting

January 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm (Education & Learning, General)

I love putting together these periodic posts of fantastic resources for you. As a parent, I am always on the lookout for great reading and writing, and I get so excited to share my discoveries with you. Let’s start with blogs:

TRU Parenting

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Last time I did a resource review, a few people commented on how there were no “Dad” blogs on my recommended list. I assure you, this was not a personal slight against dad bloggers, I just did not know of any that met my criteria of being focused on positive parenting, updated regularly and well written. I am now happy to announce that I’ve since discovered a positive parenting blog–written by a dad–that I love and highly recommend to you. TRU Parenting is a blog written by Andy Smithson, a dad of four children, and LMSW. He writes regularly on lots of topics that all center on positive/ unconditional/ attached/ non-punitive parenting. I have become accustomed to giving a little cheer when I see a new post from him show up in my blog feed. Definitely check out some of his articles…you will like them as much as I do.

Andrea Nair

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Another blog I enjoy seeing pop up in my blog roll is from psychotherapist and parent educator Andrea Nair. She seems to hit on the right topics at the right times, and always with a focus on the child and on family relationships. I love her practical approach to solving behavior problems as well as her broad background and understanding in connected parenting. I’ve seen articles from her on topics from attachment to tantrums to technology. Not only is she a therapist and educator, but she’s also a mom of two boys, so she gets very down-to-earth about what parenting young children is really like.

Positive Parenting Solutions

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Have I mentioned this blog before? I have been following Amy McCready’s blog Positive Parenting Solutions for a few years, and I feel like if I haven’t already mentioned her in a previous “best of” post, I should have. I’ll do it now. Amy is a Positive Discipline educator and author of If I have to Tell You One More Time and offers some fantastic programs for parent education. Even if you don’t purchase one of the packages, her blog is a great one to add to your feed. Her posts are concise, very practical and always positive. She’s able to make non-punitive parenting seem very do-able.

And now, a new book you should read:

Hands Free Mama, by Rachel Macy Stafford

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I had a chance to read Hands Free Mama over the holiday break and knew I had to add this one to my post of recommendations. It’s everything connected parenting is. “Hands Free” refers to the idea of putting down your devices so that your hands are free for engaging with your children. It’s about losing the distractions of a busy life full of “shoulds” (as in, I should organize this event for my child’s class, or I should respond to this email before I forget, or I should be the mom who juggles it all and looks perfect doing so.) and just being present with our children. In reading this book, I often found myself distracted–reminiscing of days and moments from my children’s own infancies, toddler years, and early childhood. When they were that little, I didn’t have a laptop, an iPad or even a cell phone! We did have a computer, but Facebook didn’t exist. I may have gotten a couple of emails a week. During those early years together, I was Hands Free by default. This book is about being HandsFree by choice. Rachel’s stories provide touching and heartwarming examples of those moments you have with your kids when the devices are put away, you’re not pulled in a thousand different directions aways from your kids, and you just focus on enjoying where you are and connecting with your children. It’s about slowing down. It’s about mindful parenting. It’s about fostering more of the moments that matter most. It’s a great read.

I’m adding a new category to my recommended resources posts: Podcasts. I’ve been absolutely loving my podcasts lately and have a few great ones that you will enjoy, too.

Passport to Parenting

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Passport to Parenting is a podcast that is hosted by two Positive Discipline coaches who also happen to be a therapist (Ann) and an educator (Kim). Between these two moms, they have four tween- and teen-aged children. What amazes me is how accurately they remember the early years of parenting. I know that as my kids get older, my memories of the challenges of the “Pre-5” years fades. I think back on my son’s threes and fours and think, “Oh, it wasn’t that hard back then.” I remember the fun stuff, the roundness of their cheeks, the cuteness of their baby teeth, and the wonder and excitement of exploring a new world. Then I’m hit with a flashback moment of enraged defiance, screams and flailing limbs from my then 3-year-old and pure anger and loss of control on my part. Then I’m like, “Oh. Yeah. That.” But Ann and Kim do this every week in their podcasts–they easily transport back to their children’s early years and recall just how challenging things can be, and they help you with those issues. In listening to these moms speak, I always feel reassured…reassured that time passes, that kids grow out of phases, that I’m not doing it all wrong, and that positive parenting tools do indeed grow strong, capable children. As an added plus, their voices are so melodic and super pleasant to listen to! That matters to me. Their friendly tone comes across instantly and every time their podcast is on, I am tempted to call them up to go out for coffee. I highly recommend you add this podcast to your subscription list for a helpful weekly mini-class on using Positive Discipline tools.

The Good Life Project

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OK, this one is interesting, because it’s not exactly parenting. But it relates. I’ve recently started listening to The Good Life Project, and I always seem to come away feeling inspired. Sometimes I’m inspired as a parent, and others I’m inspired as a person–listening to how others live “a good life,” helps me reflect on how I can do the same. Jonathan Fields, a dad, former lawyer and former yoga entrepreneur is the host of this weekly interview series. He seems like a really, really great guy. Each week he interviews someone he considers “an entrepreneur, artist, creative professional, leader or world-shaker” who has made an amazing accomplishment towards “a life well-lived.” Such a category of interview subjects is quite broad…there is a wide variety of topics that I find interesting and relevant to parenting. But no matter who he has on the show, I always enjoy the insight into what it means to live a good life. In the past Jonathan has interviewed parenting professionals like Brene Brown on the truth about vulnerability and Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner on the importance of eating regular family meals together. The interviews are recorded as videos (you can watch them on the website), but I listen to them in my podcast lineup. Sometimes, though, I’m so curious about the person whose interview I’m listening to, I have to go to the website to check out the video just so I can see what they look like! I’m really looking forward to the interview lineup for 2014.

Sparkle Stories

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Someone shared a different kind of resource with me…one that I wasn’t expecting and one that I really love. This podcast is all for children. It’s called “Sparkle Stories,” and it’s a series of lovely and enjoyable original tales and fables for young children. My kids LOVE to listen to stories in the car–we have an audiobook collection like you wouldn’t believe. So when a reader told me about this free story podcast, we definitely had to give it a try. The stories are simple yet engaging, well-narrated and about topics that my kids understand and like, such as magic, fairies, holiday traditions, seasonal fables and animals. We look forward to the new downloads as well as enjoy listening to previous favorites. When we are in-between audiobooks, these stories provide a fun, welcome change of pace. They are short–most are around 20 minutes long–and great for preschool-kindergarten age (although my oldest is 9, and she loves them, too!). You can download the podcasts here, or go to their website for access to more stories or purchase a subscription (beyond the free weekly podcasts). There are samples you can listen to, and age recommendations for various tales. We are so happy to have found Sparkle Stories!

If you have any resources you’d like to recommend, please do let me know. I’d love to add your favorite books, blogs and other inspiring parenting material to my reading/ listening library. I love to discover new sources of parenting support. I love to live an inspired life. So please, let me know what parenting resources you find most inspiring…I may add them to a future “best of” post!

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Parenting Blogs You Should be Reading

August 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm (Education & Learning, General)

I follow about 40 parenting blogs. Forty-two to be exact, as well as a dozen scientific journals on child development, psychology, and relationships. There are so many great ones out there, and I have a hard time passing up a good read for my feed.

(By the way, I just love Feedly for easy management of all my subscriptions!)

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This just means I have a steady stream of parenting wisdom coming in everyday. I get excited when I see new posts published. The best blogs–my favorites–are published consistently. Not necessarily frequently, but when they’re updated, they consistently have strong, relevant content. In other words, they are consistently good. I want to share them with you.

I know there are many blogs that are great. Some of them I have featured in past posts of the best positive parenting resources and other excellent parenting resources. Some I have in mind for future posts. I’m sure there are plenty I haven’t discovered yet and will be adding to my feed collection sometime soon. Bear with me. I don’t like to do overwhelmingly long posts, so I’m going to keep it simple and stick to just a few favorites. If you don’t have these blogs in your reader, add them today:

Peaceful Parent Institute

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Genevieve Simperingham writes on relevant topics that focus on the needs of children. Her perspective goes deep, encouraging us to look below the surface for what is going on with our children (and also within ourselves). She gets to the ‘why’ of a lot of common issues in parenting and helps provide a well-rounded ideas for how to handle them. I love her insight on parent-child relationships.

Janet Lansbury

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Janet’s words on raising children are down to earth and practical, and they really get at the essence of a child’s perspective. She shows that we don’t need to turn to gimicks to help children develop properly; they have every capability of doing so, and we need to support and trust their development. Her posts are very empowering, which is exactly what children need: confident parents.

Aha! Parenting

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Dr. Laura Markham seems to be everywhere in the parenting world lately, and for good reason. Her daily posts are shared on just about every site, large and small, dedicated to positive parenting. Her work covers the basics of connected, emotion-centered parenting. Dr. Laura once told me she dedicates a lot of hours to keeping up her blog, and it certainly shows. Her thorough, clear posts on a variety of parenting topics are inspiring and helpful to so many moms and dads.

Positive Parenting Connection

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Ariadne Brill is a Positive Discipline educator, and I think her blog is so practical. It seems every one of her posts hits the nail on the head with challenges so that many parents face every day with kids. She helps with the how-tos of daily life when you’re aiming for positive parenting. Consistently practical, consistently helpful.

Little Hearts Books

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L.R. Knost writes parenting posts from a unique perspective. With 6 kids of her own, she has navigated every stage of child development and shares her wisdom on implementing gentle guidance with young children. What I love is her ability to get behind a child’s perspective to shed some light on challenging behaviors.

Those are just a few of my favorites! I’ll update again soon with more great parenting blogs. What are your favorites? Which ones do you find most helpful? Let me know so I can be sure to add them to my feed!

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A Focus on Feelings

January 15, 2013 at 10:14 am (Education & Learning, Positive Discipline)

Have you seen these guys? They’re called Kimochis. I bought two of them on a whim a few weeks ago, and my kids have found them quite enjoyable.

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We have Cloudy and Kitty, and they are “toys with feelings inside.” I bought them because of my work in parent education…because I spend so much of my day thinking about feelings, helping others find their feelings, teaching my kids about feelings, teaching others how to help their kids find their feelings…Successful relationships are built on an understanding of feelings.

So when I saw these guys in the store and saw the variety of feelings they come with, I was immediately interested. I had never seen a toy like this before–one that was created solely for the purpose of helping kids identify their feelings to communicate effectively. And they’re cute!

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It sounds strange, but I had no idea how to introduce this toy to my kids…Do I just hand them over and say, “Here, these will help you learn about feelings?”  Do I need to come up with some creative way to use them? What I supposed to tell them to do with these guys and their feelings?

Fortunately, I didn’t need to be worried, because my kids LOVED the animals and seemed to know right what to do. They have come up with lots of ways to use both the animals and their feelings. Sometimes the Kimochis play together just as any stuffed animals would play together at our house, other times they sit alone on a chair until a child is ready to come “express herself.” Sometimes the kids play with just the feelings. Once, I found a feeling left on my pillow for me to discover when I went to bed so I would know that someone was feeling sorry.

Each animal comes with a book that includes ideas for how to use them anyway. These are just a few included:

  • Put all the feelings in a basket on your kitchen table to invite spontaneous play and mealtime conversation
  • Surprise family members by hiding feelings in silly places or tucking kind feelings into the Kimochi’s pouch as a way to send a thoughtful message.
  • When your child acts out, remember that all behavior (even the unpleasant kind) is communication. Use the Kimochis to help your child identify and express what’s really going on.

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Once in a while, I’ll find a kid just walking around the house with a Kimochi tucked under the arm. If there is a feeling inside his belly, I’ll ask about it. “Ohhh, is cloudy feeling sad?”

“Yes, Cloudy is sad because he can’t watch my video game because you won’t let me play!” –or–

“No, he’s feeling hurt because he fell off my bed.”

So the feelings seem to communicate both what the child is feeling as well as what the toy himself is feeling. Either way, These Kimochis have been a great facilitator in empathy education!

(Oh, and FYI, no one asked me to write this post about Kimochis, nor did I receive any compensation for it. We just genuinely like them around here!)

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Excellent Parenting Resources

October 16, 2012 at 8:08 am (Education & Learning, General)

Last year I did a post on the best parenting resources of which I know. These are authors with the most helpful parenting tips, advice, and information out there: my favorites. This year, I’d like to revisit the list. I’ve come across some really great blogs in the last year, and  I’d like to add some updates. My RSS reader is getting lengthy, especially the “Positive Parenting” category! Here are a few new additions; these are the sites I love, as the topics are relevant to all families and children, and they consistently have great content:

Abundant Life Children — Emily Plank is an early childhood educator who writes this blog about honoring a child’s mind, body and spirit. Her topics center around nonviolent communication, natural learning, and respectful relationships…all crucial in working with children.

Core Parenting–Dr. Darci Walker is consistent and thorough when she writes about simple concepts in parenting. She gives well-thought-out explanations to important issues families go through. Her message is not that there’s a “right” way to parent, just ways to help children thrive. Her blog really gets at the core of effective parenting.

Elevating Childcare–Janet Lansbury is an RIE educator (Resources for Infant Educarers), which is a philosophy of caring for infants that focuses on meeting their needs and entrusting the whole of a child’s development to the child. I love the focus on respect trust as well as Janet’s supportive and nonjudgmental writing style.

Good Job & Other Things–Jennifer Lehr writes this thought-provoking blog about the messages we really send to our kids with the things we say. I enjoy her analysis of common parenting vernacular, as well as her pointed, often humorous, way of saying exactly what she thinks. She and I recently had an email conversation about the use of the word “discipline” as it is used to describe “positive discipline.” Super nice lady and a really interesting discussion!

Ordinary Courage — I love this blog by Brené Brown. Although not dedicated to specific parenting techniques, Brené’s work is helpful to parents nonetheless. She writes about communication, relationships, inner strength, happiness, embracing imperfection, and yes also parenting. I find her work personally inspiring and especially love her “Wholehearted Parenting” manifesto from her new book, Daring Greatly:

Positive Parenting Connection–Ariadne Brill is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator and writes this blog as a way to bring parents together with the shared goal of learning peaceful parenting. It is full of practical ideas, helpful tips, and tons of support.

Teach Through Love — Lori Petro offers a video blog along with her online classes. This vlog is a nice change of pace from the typical “text only” blogs. Lori talks easily about issues and examples of conscious parenting. It’s like you’re sitting down to chat with a friend!

Twin Coach–Gina Osher is a mom of twins, but her blog is not just for parents of twins. Anyone can get a lot out of this  resource that is dedicated to helping parents understand themselves and their kids better. Gina’s posts help parents become more mindful of behavior (both their own and their kids’).

I don’t have any new books to add to the list, but keep an eye out for Dr. Laura Markham’s book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, due out in November. It will be one not to be missed!

Now, I know there are so many more parenting resources out there than just these! I am gradually exploring many of them. If you have a favorite that is not on this list, let me know, I’d love to check it out. Of course, every great blog has a great Facebook page, so make sure you check the pages of the above blogs out to be sure to catch all of their updates and discussion threads.

Happy reading and here’s to mindful parenting!

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Unconditional Money

July 11, 2011 at 5:30 am (Education & Learning)

When Elia and JJ were 5 and 3 we started giving them allowances.  I admit that age three was probably a little too young to start JJ on an allowance–he didn’t seem to grasp the concept that money was anything to be had–but he’s since grown into an understanding of money, saving, and buying stuff.

Our allowances are not tied to chores.  John and I expect the kids to help out around the house; their allowances are not based off of housework that they are expected to do anyway.

We give allowances for the sole purpose of teaching our kids how to manage and budget and, most importantly, make mistakes with, their own money.

JJ, now that he’s turning 5, will get $2.50 a week, and 6 1/2-year-old Elia gets $3. For us, this has been a perfect amount for the things they want to buy.  If they just can’t wait, and want to spend it right away, it’s enough to buy one or two really cheap things.  But it’s also enough that they need to save up for several weeks in order to get something that is nicer/ better quality/ will last longer.

When we shop and they ask me to buy something for them (as they inevitably do…repeatedly), I’ll tell them that’s not something I will buy them but they are certainly welcome to spend their own money on it.  JJ usually keeps his wallet in my purse, so when we’re out shopping it’s with us. Elia likes and remembers to bring her purse with her whenever we go out so she keeps her own money. When they see something they like, they either check to see how much money they have, decide if they want it badly enough to spend their own money, or add it to their wish list and keep thinking about it.

Right now, at their ages, what we work on the most is teaching them about…

  • The general concept of money–simply that it allows you to take stuff out of the store and keep it.
  • Values of each denomination–cents per dollar/ quarter, etc., and what to do if you don’t have the exact coins the price tag indicates
  • Saving–not savings in general, but saving up for specific items
  • Keeping track of your money–putting it away when you have it, adding it up, remembering how much is in there
  • Budgeting–how to divide up your money to be able to get different things that you want.

They’re all very concrete lessons right now. The more abstract ones like creating a general savings fund or giving/ donating are reserved for another day.

“Yeah but Mom, what do you DO with savings?” “Well, you just save it up.” “Yeah, but for what…what do you buy?” “Well, nothing now…or hopefully ever…it’s just savings.” “[blank stare]”

Elia has started saving a little bit on her own, and we’ll focus on it more with JJ soon, too.  Maybe after he can keep track of his crumpled wads of dollar bills that end up in random places around the house.  Or keep track what day of the week allowance is given.  Or what day of the week it is period.

As they get older, and we add the savings and giving expectations in there, we’ll increase the allowance accordingly. I can’t really say how much right now, but we’ll know what’s appropriate at the time. They’re just not ready for anything except what’s directly related to the immediate present; money = stuff = now.

Because the amount of their allowance is low enough while still being appropriate to what stuff costs, we don’t have a problem with buying too much. They either buy one cheap thing each week (and either lose it or break it, at which point it’s gone anyway), or one (relatively) nice thing every few weeks. Even at their young ages, Elia and JJ have learned great lessons from having an unconditional allowance each week. They have done their share of hasty spending, lots of wanting, and the realization of what it takes to get what they really want.

We were just in the store the other day and JJ saw a cool toy that he’d been wanting for a while. He checked his wallet and was reminded that he didn’t have as much as he thought because he bought candy last week. He was angry and exclaimed, “OH NO! I don’t have enough!” I said, “But that candy was good, though. That was a nice treat.” To which he replied, “Yeah…but it’s gone now.”  Yep.

I think having the freedom to make money mistakes and “learn the hard way” is so beneficial to young kids!  I’d much rather have my kids make their money mistakes now than in their adulthoods.

And money lessons are so much easier to teach when they’re not tied to chores; when that money is there every week, without fail, for them to decide what to do with. I don’t want to give our kids the opportunity to say, “I don’t feel like doing chores, so that’s OK if I don’t get my allowance this week.” Our perspective is: you do chores because it’s expected of all the family members to pitch in. And you get your allowance each week because it’s important for you to learn about money. They’re two separate issues.

Our kids’ unconditional allowances have given them the freedom to make mistakes (or have success!) with their money.   It’s helped them prioritize what they really want as well as experience the financial effects of poor buying decisions.

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