Take the time to teach

Take the time to teach, so you can let them go! (without being “too worried”). We all hear about helicopter parents, controlling parents, authoritarian parents, permissive parents, etc… Today I will share what worked for me during many years working with children and still works when I interact with a child on a daily basis. TAKE THE TIME TO TEACH. We want our children to be independent. We want them to do all those things they are supposed to do - to survive, be part of the society and be happy mindful human beings.

We push children through life day by day expecting them to know and do everything right when we ask. We as parents just don’t get how much children have to learn. We say things like “Do I have to tell you one more time? I told you that already. Don’t you get it? Why do I have to repeat myself every day? Why are you doing that again? I told you no! Why didn’t you say thank you? Look people in their eyes when you talk to them. Don't hit. Don’t throw food on the floor when you are eating…” Are any of these sentences familiar to you?

In our own lives, if we want something to happen we have to work on it to make it happen right? So, if you want your child to learn something, you have to take the time to teach and practice so they can make it happen. YES teach. YES practice, over and over again. Over and over again, and that takes time and dedication. Like you practice to play an instrument, or like you practice to do a presentation for work. The more opportunities you have to practice, the better you will do. If we don’t take the time to teach they will probably learn anyway … life will teach them, but at what price? Or with how many tantrums? (to be more specific).

The idea behind this post is not the question of if children can or can’t learn or do what we ask. The idea is to make their lives and our lives easier and happier so we can enjoy our children more and create a connection that will last a lifetime.  


We parents are the most important guides, mentors and teachers for our children. If we take the time to teach our children well, they will learn well. Your children learn better from you than anybody else because they love you, they trust you and they have a connection with you.(read more about connection here)  So take the time to teach and practice.

Here is one concrete example, with an 18 month old child, so you will know what I am talking about: I am being very specific with the instructions so you have an idea why we should take the time to teach. I want you to understand the steps of teaching something basic so that your children can master any ability faster and with less frustration. Because believe me, they want to do it. It is natural for a human being to want to be independent. We just don’t know how when we are 18 months old and don’t have the ability physically or emotionally to be patient YET. I encourage you to read the whole process, I know it is very long and boring, but if you analize it you will realize how much effort and work children are actually doing and how her/his brain and body is working together to make connections and make it all happen.

18 month old child:

  • If you want an 18 month old child to be able to get dressed by her/himself take the time to go step by step:

  1. Take the pull-up diaper, ask your child to sit on the floor or a flat surface (it is easier for them to have more balance on a flat surface than a bed or squishy couch) Your child needs to sit with their legs straight out. Go to his/her level on the floor. Open the diaper and say: “Put you leg inside, now put your other leg inside.” Help as much as needed at the beginning. Say: “now stand up.”

  2. When your child stands up, Say: “squat, hold the diaper with two hands and pull up.” Repeat: “Pull up.” Put your hands on top of their hands and help pull up so they can repeat the action and connect your words with the actions.

  3. Remember to say the action and repeat it during all the process so she/he can understand exactly what you want them to do.

  4. Take the pants and lay them on the floor flat. Ask your child to sit down again, and help them to hold the pants from the waistband to put the first leg in, and then the second leg in.

  5. Ask them to stand up. Hold the pants from the waistband and pull them up, then ask your child to pull their pants up from the back side  (help if they need it).

  6. At this age they still need help until they master the ability, so help as much as they need the first times you do it, but also encourage them to do it by themselves. After the first lessons and when they give you the opportunity, start  with questions like: “Do you think you can do it by yourself? Can I start with you and you can finish it?” Or, “I bet you can not pull your pants up, no worries I can help you (if you want to play around a little and try to challenge them)” If they do what you ask, be very positive and encourage more action with comments like:  “Wow you have strong arms! You know how to do it by yourself now, how exciting! What? Wait, did you just do it?”

  7. Grab the t-shirt with your hands, open the hole where you put the head as big as you can (children have big heads) and put the t-shirt hole between the back and the top of their head. Start pulling down. Encourage their help, so they are conscious of what they are doing.

  8. After you get their head through the hole, help holding the t-shirt down and ask the child to put one hand inside the sleeve and then the other one.

  9. Ask the child to pull down the shirt.

  10. Now socks… Ask him/her to sit down in the floor again. Open the sock and put the first part on the finger toes. Ask your child to pull it towards him/her (socks take time to master, especially when they are tight).

Woah, that was exhausting, for me to write and for you to read and for a child to actually do! We don't realize how much work it takes to do an action until you actually have to walk through the process with somebody that doesn't know how to do it. It is like you never realized how important your pointer finger is until one day you cut yourself or burn your finger and you have to spend all day without using it until it heals.    

It is very exciting and gratifying when you teach, follow the process and then, see the results. Try it today with one thing. Just one, and do it for a week or two to see the results. Take the time to teach and go step by step. Break it down and explain the process to them. And of course, be consistent and you will be very proud of your hard work, more connected with your child and they will be very proud of themselves by being more independent. Win-win!

And after you take the time to teach,  you can freely (kind of) Let them go. Click  here to read more.

Related Blog posts:

Let them go.

How to teach to say thank you.

How to get out the door faster.

How to teach your child to share.


This video is an example of how to help a toddler get dressed.

And, this is a simple video of the order to do it.

Let it go... Let it go...!

Let them go - (Sang to the Frozen theme song)

There is a saying in horse training. The best horses get to be horses. In fact, most horse training programs begin with 2 year olds. This is because, for a horse to emotionally balanced, understand communication and respond to cues - it is best to grow up with the herd.

Our children also need this type of social environment early on. And it can be very difficult for us to give them the freedom, or find the community that our children need to just be kids.

The basic idea is to put our kids in environments that let them figure it all out for themselves. Let them put our training, love and expectations to the test. Let them go - in a controlled environment so that they are ready for the next step and the next one.

Early practice dealing with others is so important. Number one because human beings need to socialize. But number two because freedom is coming, and no matter what we do at some point these children will be on their own.

Some kids are on their own when they go to preschool. Some are on their own when they go on to elementary school. Some even are lucky enough to be home-schooled and don’t get fully cut loose into society until later. But at any age, if we have not put our kids in situation where they can fly solo - we have not prepared them for the great opportunities and pitfalls waiting for them.

The library, the playground, the swimming pool, the airport, the backyard barbeque, the birthday party, the neighborhood street, the soccer field . . . these are all opportunities for us to be there - without being there.

Our instinct is to interfere in our kids’ interactions in these environments. We want to protect them, and we also want to tell them what to say. We say things like “Share!” and “Say Please!” and “Be careful!” Instead, it is very powerful to just back off and let horses be horses. Our kids can figure it out for themselves. When we are there, watching, but not interfering, our kids have confidence and take the steps we pray they will in “real life”.

OK then what is the line? When should a parent get involved in these environments? The line is safety. If you see something that makes your motherly or fatherly instinct jump to attention - get in there and fix it. Up to that line, it is OK to observe. You should observe, and be ready to answer questions and debrief situations. This is your child’s chance to practice very important skills like leadership, responding to peer pressure, manners, self-confidence, taking risk, and concentration under your watchful gaze.

More often than not, the child will know when to come to you rather than the other way around. Have faith, and let horses be horses. Let your kids get through the social ringer that is society at a very young age, and give them the chance to find their own resilience. Letting them go begins very early. Letting them go is so hard and counterintuitive. But at the end of the day they belong to more than just their parents, and our job is to prepare them for that future. By reserving our leadership and protection in controlled, safe environments early-on, we inoculate them and do our best to prepare them for when the consequences are higher. Think about the future, and what will they do when the big dangers come calling.

Pd: Yes, all of this is truth. Just don’t forget to take the time to teach your child, create a good environment for them and work on having a connection before you leave them out in the world. Click here for some tips on how to do that.

Related blog posts:

Community

COMMUNITY

It’s crazy how you don’t realize some of the things that you need. Some things are essential for you. But you don’t “get it” until those things actually happen and you are actually living them. Consciously we know what we need, but actually living it makes the difference.

Being part of a supportive community makes the difference.

We all come from different backgrounds. I was raised by a culture of strong beliefs and strong people. One of the concepts I learned was that I have to do it all, and asking for help was a sign of weakness.  Back then, I thought that the more I did by myself, the stronger I was. “Because no-one else can do it better, right?” and “They don’t do it the way I like.” :) “Also, what if they think I am not capable? or not good enough?“ Well, I was all wrong.

Now, I know I am very important for my family and the people around me. And they are so important to me. I know that I can teach others. But also I have so much more to learn from others. This interaction is a community. Community is very important and powerful.

To be a part of a community, you give yourself to others. You LISTEN to them. Open your heart and you can see life from a different perspective. Be grateful and appreciate yourself and your  family and appreciate the person talking to you and realize that we are all awesome human beings with our own stories to tell.

There are so many examples of how being part of a great community is one of the best things you can do for yourself to appreciate others and learn. I am going to share this one from our Mom’s Retreat.

I was standing up leading a conference, teaching Moms how to connect better with their children. After I gave all my Kind Habits method, it was time for questions and comments. We all started talking and giving examples. We all shared stories, and laughed and cried. It was not just me, the presenter, telling Moms the best way to do things. It was all of us Moms connected, sharing emotions and fears. It was a group of caring and loving women sharing how hard but wonderful is to be a mom and raising amazing human beings. Before it happened,I was so excited about my workshop because of the content I prepared. But the real payoff was the great connection and support we all created helping each other. After this experience, I was so excited about being a mom. I was ready to go home and Love my family… Even more!

I had a great weekend of connection. Thank you to all the wonderful, powerful women that taught me so much this weekend!

To share or not to share…

Are you sharing? To share or not to share…

My friend has a young son who is one and a half years old. She came to me very concerned because her sweet boy won’t share his toys at home. He also does not want to share other stuff in public places.

Let’s think about this from the child’s perspective. You are in the store very engaged, looking and smelling this nice beautiful candle. Would you be ok if a stranger came over and grabbed that candle from your hands? Or suddenly your husband just came and took the candle from you and gave it to the stranger and said, “Share!”. What would be the right thing to do for an adult in this case? An adult should wait their turn right? you saw the candle first, you got engaged with it, you wanted to see it, try it, and look at it. it is your turn. Other people can wait, or ask for permission to see the candle.

It would be nice if children understood this concept already. But just like everything else, we need to take time and teach. Children at a young age are egocentric and still practicing self-control and patience. I am not saying children can just do whatever they want. No. But sharing and asking to share is a good opportunity to practice social skills. Teach your children to ask politely for something they want, to wait and be patient, and yes sometimes to deal with disappointment when others don't share (hopefully not).

I suggest setting the tone and expectation before going to the library, other people houses, a party, or a public place that requires sharing. Talk to your children about taking turns and asking if they can have a turn. Tell them “Don't grab stuff from other people hands. Use words.” Start a conversation and talk about how would your child feel if they really want something and others are not sharing with them?  

Also, it is OK not to share. If your child is very engaged with the trains at the library and does not want to share for a while that is ok too. Give him/her the opportunity to concentrate and enjoy what he/she is doing (playing with new and different toys is very exciting). After a while, you can help by letting your child know that there are other people waiting a turn.

And if you get where you are going and another child is already playing with the toys that is also a good opportunity to practice patience and respect. Practice asking politely to other children when it is appropriate. Or maybe do something else while you wait? Come back later?

It doesn't matter the age of your child. When he/she is very young you can help by going with him and asking. Model how to say “no” to other children. When your child is a little older, these are great opportunities to let them practice social skills.

Do what is right to you and seems appropriate in the moment. Don't worry about what other people think about you or your child (Remember you are the parent. You are there for your child to teach him/her. Your goal is not to please other adults), Just be clear with others in public places and teach our children to be a good members of society.



Going out to eat

Going out to eat

For many new parents, a sign of progress is after baby is to go back to a favorite restaurant AND have a reasonable good time with your kids. Getting there begins the same way as many of our other desired outcomes. You have to start early, set the right expectations and improve over time.

Going out to eat is a great opportunity to teach your children social skills and a great time to have good conversations and enjoying time together as a family. At this time, we really don't recommend electronics (there is plenty opportunity for using screens these days). Screens don’t help kids learn how to control themselves, or have a good conversation. In fact, introducing a screen into the equation sends a very clear message that going to a restaurant is not a time to be together - it is a time to be apart.

Instead, bring things to entertain them. Restaurants have been using crayons and wiki sticks forever. Every family restaurant worth its salt should have a kids menu that you can color on. It is just that these activities can be done together. They are not a method of getting your kids away from you.


What about ordering? How parents treat the kind women and men who wait on you at a restaurant says very much about how we are teaching our children. Please and Thank You start here. The dinner table is a starting point to teach respect and understanding for all people.


All of our favorite ethnic restaurants up the ante on this idea. Indian, Chinese, Mexican or Thai - a favorite ethnic restaurant is usually a celebration of that culture’s identity, food and people. Encourage your kids to ask questions respectfully. They will want to know what the decorations mean, where do the people come from and what are their traditions? What a great opportunity to reach out and make connections with other cultures - and teach a sense of wonder about our world.

Even very small children can interact with the staff at a restaurant in a positive way. This is your chance to throw them into the world in a controlled environment. Send your two-year-old to the counter to ask for their own water, their own cups and their own napkins, roll model with them at the table, practice and then watch them do it. It is very fun as a parent to see your child building confidence.


A few Kindhabits to practice next time you go out to dinner with the family:

Manners

Please and Thank You

Ordering your own food with Please and Thank You

Getting help yourself

Quiet Voices

A few more last tips:

  • If your children are very young. Get up and walk around the restaurant in between ordering and when the food comes. It is hard for young children to sit still that long and giving them a break will let you eat more calmly. You can even take turns with your partner to go outside for a little bit if the food is taking too long.

  • Request bowls, not plates and smaller spoons so your kids can eat without so much mess.

  • From mom: I always keep a special bag in my purse with little toys that the kids can play just when we are out doing errands, restaurants, Dr. office, dentist… I change it from time to time so it is exciting for them to see it and play with different things.

Family Meeting

Starting a Family Meeting

Our kids were 5 and 3 when we started a weekly family meeting. Before that we had music night, but as our kids started to develop and could talk about what they needed and understand what we needed, a family meeting evolved.

Our meetings are on Wednesday nights, after dinner and before bed. We use the time to talk about issues in the family. Mostly it is about people picking up after themselves and the usual struggles of the family we all have. Bedtime comes up alot, as well as screaming and crying for no reason.

This meeting gives us a chance to talk to the kids in a quiet forum where we are all pretty unemotional. It also gives them a chance to bring up their concerns. It has been amazing to hear what they come up with.

  1. They designated desert nights as only Monday and Wednesday in response to our concern that they should just eat their dinner because it is good for them, not because they get desert.

  2. They requested a weekly kid calendar at their level in response to our concern that they were never ready to leave the house on time. They wanted to know what was going to happen to them.

  3. They requested limits on television for the parents because they wanted our limited screen time to be split evenly. (This request was denied since we don’t watch very much tv :) ).

  4. They started doing a small speech competition because they had seen us practicing speeches for our Toastmasters groups and wanted to be involved.

  5. They came up with ways to organize their toys and consequences if they left their toys out.

These things all came from them. It is so important to make sure your kids are involved in what is happening in the family and be part of a community Also, we are starting this practice early because we know that in too short a time, these beautiful children will be big strong teenagers. We want to get into the practice of communicating as a family now - so that it is part of our community and habit later. And best of all - these meetings are a fun highlight of the week!

Organization makes easy

Organization makes easy

There will be a lot of posts around organization, because being organized is so important. When we are organized, we can do everything easier. In our family we have a saying that is borrowed from working in kitchens - Mise en Place. In our minds, this means that everything should have a place and be in its place. Here are a few reasons why everything is easier when it is in its place:

  1. Getting out and living an active lifestyle. Everytime we come home from an adventure, no matter how big or small, everything goes back in its place. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to be able to pack or unpack from a vacation in one hour or less. The same is true for international travel or going to the local museum. I know where my water bottle is.

  2. Frustration levels. I’m notoriously bad at keeping track of the basics of life, to my endless frustration. Wallet, keys, phone, glasses - it is just too much. I still can’t keep it in line all the time. However, having a place for all these things helps immensely. A basket at the front of the house is the home for most of these items. We also have a key hanger.

  3. Food preparation. We have every drawer of the refrigerator labeled. Fruit, Veggies, Meat, Leftovers - everything has its place. Preparing meals is easier, and it is easier for people to know where the MILK is (and where it goes back) when they stay with us - which is all the time. Leftovers are always in the same place so we can use them first before we found them on the back of the refrigerator all bad.

  4. Responsibility. If you are diligent with your children about this, and stand firm that they organize on the same level as you - they will learn to respect their things and to take care of them. They will also learn that they are sucking their (and your) energy away when they leave things all over the house. It takes a lot of effort in the beginning to hold this standard, but it is worth it!

  5. That extra minute that you take putting away that raping paper or the box that came in the mail will save you a lot of time when you have to pick up more than one latter and everything looks overwhelming.

  6. Bed time. We don’t allow toys in the kids rooms because toys are a distraction from the business of sleeping. Sleeping is critical for life. More sleep is better. When everything is in its place at bedtime, kids know where to go and how to get it all done. Soap for shower - in its place. Toothbrushes - in their place. Pijamas - in their place. Your and the kids can follow your routine quicker and easier.

I’m sure you can imagine, and provide lots of other examples where organizing the physical objects of your life makes a difference between success and failure. There are lots of other types of organization (time management, financial planning . . . . ) However organizing the physical objects is a great place to start because the results are immediate and powerful. Make some time to talk about this with your family!

Your Phone

Your Phone

Your phone, and all your devices are barriers between you and your kids. We sometimes feel like the last family on earth who does not allow our kids to use tablets or other devices - in the restaurant, on the plane, at home. Our kids get to watch TV on the weekends for a few hours a day. Even then, I feel I’m robbing our kids of valuable time for them to develop their minds.

But what about us, the parents? Every time we answer a call, check a text message or whatever it is - we are invited by these enchanting devices to lose ourselves and moments with our children. The phones and screens are irresistable. They are built to undermine us, and take us away.

I’m not sure this idea needs more reinforcing, but look at it from this perspective. If you are a working parent you probably get one or two hours max with your kids on the weekdays. Those moments are your currency. Those are the moments where you either put memories in the bank, or spend your moments on distractions letting your time slip away.

So what do we do about it? Less is more. Here are some ideas for the parents’ devices:

  • Have a basket at the front door and deposit all parent phones there as you walk in the door. When you arrive at home, you begin the second act. Unfortunately it is not good enough to be your best at work. You need to be your best at home too. Putting down your phone as you walk in the door is a physical action that will help you commit to having a great second act.

  • Demand eye contact from yourself and your children. Get into the habit of speaking to each other and looking each other in the eyes. I read that even babies respond negatively to distracted parents on cell phones, because they don’t learn to use eye contact from birth. Eye contact helps us connect with each other.

  • Get an alarm clock. Really the only thing you need your phone for in the bedroom is to wake up. Get an alarm clock and get the screen out of your personal space.

  • Schedule 20 minutes of me-time to use the phone and check up on everything right after the kids go to bed. It is the magic hour, get your stuff done or watch a show and then move on.  

  • Set your screen to use red tones after dark. Most new software will have this option. Very important. The red tones will help you not wake up more, because blue light wakes you up.

How you use your phone also shows your children how to use and control technology. Remember, there is a future teenager inside that little boy or girl. We need to start now and demand/model healthy habits with technology or the problems of the parents will easily be passed onto the kids.  



The Fifth Practice

The 5 go- to practices to be a happier and better parent:  

Yesterday I wrote about the fourth practice. Click here to read about it. There are five things you need to do everyday. YES you read correctly, every single day, to be a happier better parent - period. I will also tell you how to make it happen … (Everybody is different I know, but this actually works for everybody. YES! I am confident to tell you this). 

1. Exercise

2. Eat healthy

3. Play with your children

4. Invest in your relationship

5. Meditation, pray or quite time (wherever practice works for you)

THE FIFTH PRACTICE 


5. Meditation or pray:
Clear our minds, being grateful. For life, for who we are, for our families, for earth … for all the memories in our lives and people around us.

It is easy to wake up and let a busy day go by without being thankful for so many good things around us. We fill our mind with worries and fill it up even more thinking about those worries all day long. When our mind is full, we are not thankful and grateful. It is not easy to see good things in our lives. If we appreciate people and good memories we tend to be happier.

Meditation or prayer, your practice should include a time of silence. You need reflection to clear your mind and be with yourself. Spiritual practice will help you focus for the day and also help you appreciate life and the people around you. This practice helps us to think positive and have a good attitude about ourselves and life.

I don't want to go in too deep with this idea or suggest too much about it. This is a very personal practice. Spirituality is your choice and what works for you. I choose Spirituality as the fifth essential practice for parents because I think it is very important to create space in our lives.  Parents need some quiet time. There is a lot going on physically and emotional when you are with children so we need to take some deep breaths and take it all in. I mean really take it in, be present for them but clear our minds for us to be happy and healthy.

How to do it: (I am not an expert on praying or meditation, so I will just give you ideas of times you can do it , and you can find the practice that works for you)

  • Wake up 5 minutes earlier than your normal time, and do your practice. 5 minutes is a good start.

  • Put an alarm on your phone at your lunch time at work, find a quiet place and clear your mind.

  • Before bed, find a quiet and comfortable place and do your practice.

  • A book with quotes can help you get started to think positive and be grateful. (you can read one quote per day)

  • A book with short encouraging stories could help too.

  • Just sit and breath … clear your mind for 5 minutes a day.

  • Find a teacher. Sometimes the right author, priest, or friend provides the catalyst we need to get going or stay consistent.

  • Connect with nature and the wonders around you. We all have nature, although sometimes it seems far away. We all have a sky, and our food is a part of nature. Thinking about these connections helps us feel more significant.

You can really do this anytime, anywhere. Just find the time that is convenient for you and your family.

The fourth practice

The 5 go- to practices to be a happier and better parent:  

Yesterday I wrote about the third practice. Click here to read about it. There are five things you need to do everyday. YES you read correctly, every single day, to be a happier better parent - period. I will also tell you how to make it happen … (Everybody is different I know, but this actually works for everybody. YES! I am confident to tell you this). 

1. Exercise

2. Eat healthy

3. Play with your children

4. Invest in your relationship

5. Meditation, pray or quite time (wherever practice works for you)

THE FOURTH PRACTICE 

4. Invest in your relationship: One day your children are going to growing up and go away. So what about you and your partner? It is easy to forget how to be together because your kids are so amazing or you are so worried about them. For women, it is very hard to make the switch to give to your partner because having a baby is very hard physically and emotionally. It is hard to carve our the space to give time to your relationship. Women also have a need to care and protect their babies and families. It is very hard to let go of everything that has to happen for a baby or child and trust your partner to get it right.

Men often feel tired and overworked. It is a shock to have every moment of every day full of doing things for other people and never for yourself. Men don’t feel connected to their partners because they are working and miss some of the things that happened during the day.

Learning how to spend time together again and investing in your relationship is fundamental to being a good parent. It feels like taking time away from your children, but really it is giving a great example to children what it takes to make a healthy relationship work. Marriage and relationships are hard. The little things matter.

How to do it: Ideas

https://www.gottman.com/

First, let’s set the stage and put it out there that we are a fan club of the Gottman Institute (unofficial fanclub). John and Julie Gottman are ground breaking researchers. From their website: “Science! The Gottman Institute is the culmination of Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s life work as researchers and clinical psychologists.” Over 40 years of research!  

  • Sign up for the Marriage Minute from the Gottmans (free). In fact read everything you can from the Gottmans.

  • Download the free conversation cards from the Gottman Institute. Available in the itunes and Android app stores. Use the cards to get to know each other better.  


Our take on this:

  • Be open to finding new good times! The good news is you live together, so you do have the chance to connect. The bad news is that these connections/moments might not take the same form as before you had kids.

  • Get your “High School Dates” on. Remember what you used to do when you had no money?

    • Make a mixtape/playlist together.

    • Write notes to people you love to express your gratitude.

    • Get a jar of pennies and make wishes while you throw them into a “wishing well” (could just be a jug of water on the floor).

    • Charades!

    • If Mom is breastfeeding get a 6er of non-alcoholic beer and drink it together.

    • Art project.

    • Play “2 truths and a lie” or “Would you rather?”

    • Speech contest. Prepare an update for each other on a current event or something you care about.

    • Make some food together.

    • Have a two-person book club.     

  • Start small. Making an effort to connect to each other is done over lots of little interactions. Carve out a time where you can intentionally talk to each other on a daily basis.

  • Have a “Day of __________ (fill in the name of your partner). Let them plan the whole day and make their dreams come true! Maybe this means going to their kind of movie or just taking a nap. Having the power to choose a day of activities feels amazing. You don’t need to spend extra money though.

  • Squeeze the sponge. Work on those little things that drive each other crazy and try to remember them. While these things might never go away - making an effort really helps your relationship.

  • Talk to each other about the tone you want to have. Respect is so important in a relationship. Try to intentionally define a tone of respect in your speaking to each other.

  • Meet and greet. Make your reunions special when you see each other after being apart for the day. Just a hug and a kiss helps a lot!

The Third practice

The 5 go-to practices to be a happier and better parent:

 
Yesterday I wrote about the second practice Click here to read about the second practice . There are five things you need to do everyday. YES you read correctly, every single day, to be a happier better parent - period. I will also tell you how to make it happen … (Everybody is different I know, but this actually works for everybody. YES! I am confident to tell you this).

1. Exercise

2. Eat healthy

3. Play with your children

4. Invest in your relationship

5. Meditation, pray or quite time (wherever practice works for you)

THE THIRD PRACTICE 

3. Play with your children: YES spend time with them. There is an argument about quality instead of quantity. Both are important. Of course children need quality time. Children also need lots of time and repetition to learn and practice. Learning takes a lot of practice. You can also choose other people to teach them and that is ok (but then don't complain about what they learn :) - 

I heard somebody say: For children time spells love. I think this is very true. I’m not saying you have to spend every single moment of the day with your children playing and doing all they want. No, the daily requirements of life march on. There are responsibilities. We also want children to be independent and be able to socialize with other people. We want our children to create a bond with friends and family. But we should take time to play with our children because  they learn playing with us and it is a great opportunity to get to know them and create a strong bond with our children.

how to do it: Ideas

  • There are some parents that tell me: I don't really like to play, It is awful to sit and play cars or play dolls… No problem! No guilt here, if you don't like the game you don't have to play. But you can definitely  involve your child in something you like. If you would rather go outside for a walk then make it fun. Go around the neighborhood hunting for stuff (rocks, sticks…).

  • If you enjoy learning about motorcycles or cars make it a date and go to a car show together and tell your kids all you know about it. 

  • Read a book to your child about a topic you like … if you are passionate about something just share it with your child like you do with your friends (try to find easy ways to explain it so your children are engaged more with you).

  • Go to the park and play tag. That will burn some energy out for them and give you your workout of the day. Win-win!

  • Make sure there are no other distractions when you take the time to be with them. Put away your phone and turn the TV off. Be present.

  • I noticed my children were very needy after school and it was very hard for me to get dinner ready and finish the afternoon in peace because there were so many interruptions. So I decided to take one hour, just one hour, as soon as we come back from school and just sit and play with them. I let them choose and be in control of what they want to do. We have so much fun. I learn from them and they tell me about school and their friends without me asking about it. It has been a very good time to bond. Now,  when it is time for me to go make dinner they were fine to be by themselves playing independently or together and I can get stuff done faster.

  • Involve them in the house chores. I can tell you with proof that an 18-month-old can fold towels like a pro. A 4-year-old can mop the floor very well (with an assistant with the water part). A 5-year-old can chop soft fruit and veggies. I can go on and on… there are so many things they can do that involve them and help us take some of the work out of our hands. Learning this work make them feel more part of the family. Doing chores with your kids is also the best opportunity to teach them that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do - but we can make it fun. Put on their choice of music and turn cleaning the house into a dance party! 

  • Make obstacle courses around the house with pillows, boxes, chairs (another opportunity for you to get some exercise).

  • Family board games are good to involve children and practice some social skills. 

  • Let you kids choose what they want to play and let them be in control of the game sometimes (most of the time if is possible). They want to have the opportunity to be in control and this is a great time to do it. 

  • Go outside, go for a walk and talk. You don't need to get anywhere in particular just go out and walk there is a lot of things that you can find outside.

  • Cook together. They really love to help and yes it could be a little messy but it will teach them to cook. Cooking helps with fine motor skills. It will get them excited to try new things because they were part of it and it is also a great opportunity to talk and learn together. Children can start helping with cooking as little as 18-months-old or sooner.

  • Very young children don't play for longer periods of time, so you can choose 20 minutes to play ball, read a book, go for a walk… 

Playing is supposed to be fun, so find something that is fun for you too. Adults don't have much time to enjoy play time anymore, so put it in your calendar because it will be good for you too. 

Related blog posts:

The second practice

The 5 go-to practices to be a happier and better parent:  


Yesterday I wrote about the first practice. Click here to read about The first practice. There are five things you need to do everyday. YES you read correctly, every single day, to be a happier better parent - period. I will also tell you how to make it happen … (Everybody is different I know, but this actually works for everybody. YES! I am confident to tell you this).

1. Exercise

2. Eat healthy

3. Play with your children

4. Invest in your relationship

5. Meditation, pray or quite time (wherever practice works for you)

THE SECOND PRACTICE

2. Eat healthy: It is so hard these days to have the habit of eating healthy food where there are so many choices and life is so busy. We don't have time to prepare a good meal.  We all know whatever goes in our body will give us what we need to function. That food will keep our body good or bad over the years. I wish we could have the body of a teenager forever so we don't have to ever worry about eating. But, we get older, and our body gets older, and even now our bodies function better when we eat better. Like everything else, good eating is the example and habits we are giving to our children for the future. There is a lot of processed sugar in the food now and sugar gives us a little energy for small periods of time. Then, sugar makes us slow and lethargic. Processed food does not give us the nutrients we need to nourish our body or our children bodies.

You don't have be go crazy about it, but really eating healthy helps your body to have more energy, function better, keep you from getting sick and even helps you sleep well. You will create a good habit in your life that will make you feel better, live longer and teach your children well.

How to do it: Ideas

  • When you go to the grocery store. Start walking to the right hand side and try to go all the way around to the store skipping going to the isles as much as you can (they normally put all the fresh produce and refrigerators around the walls).

  • If you don't buy junk food it will be more likely you won’t eat it.  It just won't be available for you so you will actually take healthier choices at home with what you have.

  • Choose one day a week to cook a lot so you can freeze, or have food available for lunches and dinner…

  • Do exchange meals with a neighbor: This works very nice for us. One day a week we cook double (for another family of 4) and us. Another day a week they cook for us. The day they cook, I get to go out somewhere with the kids after school, spend time at the park, or just playing with the kids. We don't have to worry about dinner because it arrives nice and warm at the door at 6:00pm. And the day that we cook for them we just put a little more of everything and their dinner is done (the children have also tried lots of new foods with this exchange, so win-win).

  • Try to have a menu so you don't have to think about what are you going to make every single day. If you make one menu for two weeks you will only repeat a meal twice a month. That is not bad at all right? Plus having a menu will help you buy just what you need at the grocery store.

  • Drink water: have a water bottle at your side all the time.

  • Practice eating slowly.

  • Eat healthy snacks between meals for example some easy ones  are apples, grapes, bananas, carrots, sweet peas. hummus , nuts, cheese, and yogurt. Eat snacks  so you are not starving by the time you sit to eat your big meal and eat more than you need.

  • Make easy meals when you don't have time: Who said you can not have breakfast for dinner? or leftovers for breakfast?  

  • My friend used to tell her children that for snack they could eat anything that grows from the ground (they made great games out of this, learned and made good choices).

  • Cook with your children, involve them in the process so they will be more interested in eating healthy.

  • Smoothies are a good way to get your veggies in and start the day full and strong.

I mentioned before that eating healthy is a great example for your children, but you don't have to go crazy about this. Remember, this is not about losing weight. It is about nourishing your body, having more energy, feeling better and being healthy. It is better to create your own family culture of being strong. We need to take care of ourselves. When we model these habits for our children, kids don't need to be told to lose weight or worry about how they look. Start with you :)


I worked with preschool children for 15 years, and our first suggestion to the parents with children that had a hard time concentrating or controlling their behavior was to be aware of the children’s diet. You will be surprised by how many times those children changed their behavior after changing their diet. Children who eat well have longer periods of concentration, can be more calm, can solve problems and sleep better.  Food really makes a difference. Tomorrow: The Third practice

Related blog posts:

THE FIRST PRACTICE

The 5 go- to practices to be a happier and better parent:  

THE FIRST PRACTICE 
I was debating about this, and trying to write this more like a suggestion  and be careful about how to say it. But my Colombian background stepped out and said: Just say it. Just do it. It works for me and I am actually confident it will work for you too (if you are disciplined doing it of course) So here we go ...

There are five things you need to do everyday YES you read correctly, every single day to be a happier better parent - period. I will also tell you how to make it happen ... (Everybody is different I know, but this actually works for everybody YES I am confident in telling you this).

1. Exercise

2. Eat healthy

3. Play with your children

4. Invest in your relationship

5. Meditation, prayer or quite time (wherever practice works for you)

  1. Exercise: YES exercise, there is no excuse for it: not your children, not your time, not your work, not the weather… not even a disability or injury, nothing. You don't have to train for the olympics, or do an Ironman or run a full marathon. (Although it would be awesome if you did that, and if you are training for one GO YOU !) It doesn't matter if you are not an “exercise person” or if you don't like it or you if you are not coordinated enough (practicing makes perfect). We read all the time about how important it is to exercise, we all hear about those endorphins that the brain releases to trigger positive feelings, and how exercise gives us more energy…

Well if we know all of that let’s just do it. Plus what a good example of good habits for our children.

There is another important thing about this. When you workout you get more energy, and you also get stronger. When you are a parent, you kind of have to be strong. Or at least everything gets easier if you are. You can carry more stuff around (groceries for example), you can pick up your children better (and play more…), you will perform better at work, you can even sleep better. I can go on and on. So you have to Be strong to Parent strong. When you get in shape literally everything is easier. It is not just training for a triathlon or a marathon, it is training for life.

How to do it: (ideas)

  • Start with something: The easiest way to start is walking.

  • Or choose something that you like to do: Yoga, running, dancing, basketball, volleyball, Zumba, fitness class, anything that will keep you motivated.

  • Wake up in the morning 20 minutes before your normal time and go for a walk. (if you have a baby you can put a walk in your routine, first thing in the morning)

  • Get dressed for work, put on your tennis shoes and go for a 20min walk around the neighborhood before leaving for work.

  • Drop off the kids at school and go for a walk around their school or your workplace.

  • 20 minute walk for lunch?

  • Go to the park with your children and play tag, or basketball or just run around chasing them. They will love that and you will take the exercise benefit of it.

  • Take the whole family for a walk after work (If your children are older they can go on their bikes, that will make you move a little faster).

  • Put your workout clothes on as soon as you come back from work,  get done with the bedtime routine- rush hour… and when the children are in bed do a workout video at home, or use your exercise machine if you own one.

  • Take turns with your partner to go for a quick run after work as soon as you get home (Yes I know you want to get home and see the children but 20 more minutes will really give you more energy to be with them and have an open mind to handle them :))

  • If it is very hard for you to get motivated? Find community… tell a friend to join you at the gym or go for schedule walks.

  • Find community… join a group that makes you do it. There are a lot of free activities out there.

  • The last half marathon I ran. I created a What’s App group with my friends (that run with me) we sent pictures every day after every workout to keep each other motivated and encourage each other to don't miss a workout. It was very fun and helped all of us to be disciplined about it. The race was very fun and I felt accomplished to encourage healthy habits and bonding more with my friends.

What is 20 minutes a day in a 24 hour period? There is no excuse. If it is hard to take the initiative, ask a friend or a family member to join you and put it in your calendar like it is a Dr. appointment that can not be missed. Believe me you will feel better, and will be more present with your family. After you try it, you will love it so much you can try to increase the time to 30 minutes or 40… and then maybe an hour a day. If you are not an “exercise person” I recommend to start very slow. Don't set big expectations that you can not accomplish because you will be disappointed. Just start today. Go for a walk today. Make it happen no matter what or what time. just do it … And do the same thing tomorrow.

If you are a little more advanced on the topic. I recommend this website for free workout videos, you can pick whatever level you are at and wherever time that works for you: www.fitnessblender.com

11 years ago I ran my first half marathon and since then, I could not stop running. It literally changed my life. I feel so much better when I go out for a run. It is like you sweat out all the bad thoughts and have great ideas. :)  I am ready for the second part of the day if a run at lunch time. I feel like I accomplished something in the day, I can also keep up with my two energetic boys, and my crazy outdoor husband.

Here is my training schedule for my half marathon just in case you want to challenge yourself a little. Click Here to open in Mac. Click here to open in hp I leave some space in each day so you can write the number of everyday for your convenience. you can also print it or change it. Whatever works for you, That is the training I always do and I always feel great after running. I recommend reading the book that also talks about your diet while running, clothes and shoes to wear.

I was hoping to write just one post for this topic, but I got so excited about sharing all this information that I ended up writing to much … I hope you enjoy it and really make an effort in trying this. Yes life can be crazy and full, but just think about the healthy habits you can create to live better and happier with yourself and the people around you, and the example of discipline, consistency, and hard work that you are giving to your family. Start today!.

Tomorrow: The second practice to be a happier and better parent…

IMG_2020.jpg

This is the book I read when I started running

It is a guide for people that is just starting. I never run that long before, But I followed the schedule until the end and I run my first Half Marathon with a good time and I was well prepared for it.

Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person's Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Marathon Paperback – May 2, 2003. by John Bingham (Author), Jenny Hadfield (Author)

yes, you will sleep again!

Having a baby is so exciting and yes, you will sleep again!


By the time my first son was born, I had a chip on my shoulder. Every single knowing parent had paved my road to fatherhood with low expectations. Every time I mentioned that we were pregnant, the standard reaction was a knowing smile - a glint in the eye - and the promise that our lives were about to CHANGE, but not for the better. Most of the people we met along the way while my wife was pregnant told us to get some sleep, and that we would never sleep again.

While all those people might have been right, I have since and continue to refuse to give new parents the same treatment. I always tell them that being a parent and having a family will be their biggest adventure (aside from their marriage of course), and that I am so excited for them.

That is the same message I have for you today, and I’m here to tell you that yes, even though there is going to be some serious adjustment in the sleep department it is all worth it and you will not only survive, you will thrive.

Here are our strategies for getting enough sleep, when baby is new to house:

  • Create a family culture where sleep is important. You are a parent now, and it is a sudden change but you just have to go with it. You will need to sit down and talk about how this change is affecting all three of you. Some ideas you can use in this conversation:

  1. Don’t wake each other up - any time the other person is sleeping agree to let them sleep as much as they can.

  2. Get into your pajamas from 6:30-7:00. The earlier you get ready for bed, the earlier you will be in bed.

  3. Keep all devices out of the bedroom. The phones and tablets are made to rob us of sleep.

  4. Make less plans. In the first six months of a new baby’s life, it might be better to just not make any plans. You have to track this back and set this expectation in pregnancy, which is not easy. Many people will tell you you need to take care of yourself and go out and do stuff. But really your nails don't need to be done. You just have a baby, sleeping and resting is really taking care of yourself.  

  5. Keep getting regular workouts. (of course after the doctor gives you green light on this) As long as you get your workout in, you will sleep better, and feel better.

  6. Let the baby sleep and take advantage of naps. Thankfully babies are programmed to need a lot of sleep.

  • Create an environment, both physical and habitual that promotes sleep opportunities. While closely related to your culture, your physical environment and schedule will help you create a culture of sleep in your family. Try some of these ideas:

    1. Tone down the lights and colors, making sure what when you need to buy new light bulbs you trend towards warm light.

    2. Start listening to softer music close to bed time.

    3. Get both a “No Soliciting” sticker and a “Baby is Sleeping” sign and put them on the front door so that you don’t have any unwanted interruptions.

    4. Silence your phones and other devices after 7:00pm.

Good luck! Lots more to come on the importance of sleep. You know it is important. Make sleep a priority!

Baby needs

Baby needs

There are expectations for all of us. Some of these expectations are beautiful. A blue blanket for your baby boy. A pink blanket for your baby girl. Painting the baby’s room, choosing a theme and creating a beautiful space for your new baby sounds amazing. New parents, I know you can picture the crib, the mobile - everything. And everyone pitches in! Grandma makes the blankets. Grandpa paints the room.

As you are preparing to have your first child the time is now to harness all this beautiful energy and channel it for your children to produce an outcome that is even more beautiful than the nursery. There are some physical items you need when baby arrives, but they might not be what you think. Before painting and decoration and all the sugar on top, gather your care community in the form of and evite, baby shower, or person to person communication. Use the list below to get ready - and remember - whatever theme you choose for baby’s nursery that LOVE is what that baby needs more than anything. The items below will help you conserve energy and money - so you have more to LOVE that baby like no one else (Besides your partner of course!)

  1. No crib - only Pack’n’Play. In the very near future, you will need a Pack’n’Play (with changing table attached). These things are amazing, and they are the only crib you need. You will use it to travel, it is a changing table, it is cheap compared to many cribs. Ask for this. The baby will be use to sleep in here, so if you have to spend the night with grandma or travel. The baby will more like to sleep better in a place s/he already know.

  2. Yes the swing is necessary. Protect your back. Kids are the best weights for training because they continually get bigger and you get continually stronger. But you just can’t hold the baby all the time. Buy the swing (used is OK) and be happy. The problem with this is that you won’t use it for a long time, but it would save some future bills for your back. So if you want to save money inherit one :)

  3. B.O.B stroller. You need this. The most reliable hard to break stroller. It passes the ultimate test: You can easilly roll it around with one hand and with the other drink your COFFEE!

  4. Bottle set-up. Technology is always changing for the better in this area. Check with your people (those who had babies 3-6 months ago) they will give you tips. This is sometimes an iphone vs. pixel decision. Just make the choice and move on.

  5. A comfortable place for nursing upright. This might very well take the form of a rocking chair. However, it could be a Laz-Y-Boy as well. Please, Dads make sure this place is comfortable and happy for Moms. Your wife will be spending alot of time there. You will use this for a long time, since is very comfortable to read books to the children.

  6. Netflix: Optional but great to have! Something like netflix to watch either together or single while feeding baby during those long nights.

  7. Instant-Pot. Yes you will need this for many years. Might as well get going now and learn how to make deliciouse one-pot meals when time is shorts.

  8. Ninja or other awesome blender. Green Juice and smoothies are your friends. Healthy! Easy! No better combination.

  9. Powerblock Weights. Easy to store. Millions of good YouTube videos. Best way to grab a quick workout at home with little or no time. Start with www.fitnessblender.com.     

  10. Good Diaper Bag - Indispensible item you can’t live without. More pockets is better. We like the bag pack kind because is more convenient to have in your back while you are holding the baby.

  11. The Pump: Medala is the preferred brand. Many companies and healthcare systems have benefits to get one for free (check your insurance for that).

12. Baby carrier (to walk or hike): Very nice and handy to carry the baby while you get some stuff done.

Here is an extra list of some other items that you will enjoy too :

13. Poppy pillow: Use for nursing and tummy time.

14. Swaddle blankets.

15. Night light.

16. Sound machine.

Babies don’t really need a lot of stuff. they need care, attention and a well taking care mama, so get all the help you can when people offer, all the sleep when you can and enjoy every second of it. They do really grow fast.

Quick Meals without cooking

Go-To Meals without cooking

This post is about getting something to eat for your child at the absolute last minute, because everything went wrong. When it all goes wrong, you need to have some back-ups that you can rely on and still feel good about. The foundation for having a good store of options in place when time evaporates is being a savvy consumer and making the right decisions at the grocery store. It is more expensive, but try to buy organic. Trend toward whole, unprocessed foods.

Unfortunately the best meals take time. Most foods are just better when they get to hang out and simmer for a long while. Which means that parents and consequently their kids are the most challenged to get something healthy and delicious on the table. The following foods are the best go-to fast foods we have found. I’m not recommending that you take these foods and make them your diet. You should still find time to cook the finer things in life that take hours in the oven or the grill. But in today’s hectic rush of insanity that is life - find a middle ground and go to easy options when you have to.

To create a tasty, fast and well-rounded meal take an item from each list and put the three together on a plate:

A. Fresh cut fruits and vegetables (In order of acceptance by picky eaters)

  1. Carrots

  2. Grapes

  3. Oranges

  4. Apples

  5. Spinach

  6. Strawberries

  7. Blueberries

  8. Blackberries

  9. Cherry Tomatoes

    B. Proteins

    1. Smoked Salmon

    2. High quality cheese

    3. Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews

    4. Eggs (I’m counting them even though they need to be cooked. It takes 5 minutes!)

    5. hummus

    C. Grains

    1. Whole wheat bread

    2. Whole grain frozen waffles

    3. Whole wheat tortillas


I can’t tell you how many times this ingredient list has saved us. From the items above, you can create salads, burritos, breakfast for dinner, sandwiches and bowls. Choose your own adventure and let your kids choose theirs as well!

For fun and easy recipes…

Related blog posts:

Bedside Manner

Bedside Manner

The other day I picked up my son and put him in the shower. I was frustrated, he was taking forever - and it seemed like the easiest way to get him where I wanted him to go at the time. I was surprised, however, by his screaming and protest. He was really, really mad at me.

The whole dignity dressdown for the both of us was a good reminder that I need to slow down and explain my actions to my kids - even if they can’t respond with words yet.

Long ago in another life I was an EMT for a short stint. One of the most important things I learned in that mini career was the concept of bedside manner. Bedside manner means you need to talk through everything you are doing with a patient - in as caring a way as you can. You can’t just walk up to a patient and shove a needle in their arm. Likewise, you should not just walk up to your protesting son and throw him in the shower. You can give an I.V. - or get the shower going at the same rate - while making the patient aware of what you are doing.

Talk through every step of your action. For example with the needle: You are hurt, you need to receive fluids and medication, but the fastest way for us to do that is with an I.V. I’m going to clean this part of your arm and insert the needle there. This will hurt a little bit, and there will be some blood.

Now with the shower: Ok buddy, it is time to go to bed and before that you need to get clean. I know that you don’t want to do this right now and it looks like you need some help. I’m going to pick you up, and then put you under the water. The water is warm.

The basic principle for an EMT is if you would not be comfortable taking these actions on your own grandmother, you should be doing things differently.

The same standard for communication should be held with our children, and it really helps them know what is going on and why.

There is a three-step process for communicating my actions:

  1. Stop and breath

  2. Make an observation

  3. Intentionally communicate with love.

This simple tool becomes a power tool when you actually voice what you are doing. You say to your child, “I’m going to stop and breath.” You say, “I’m going to make an observation.” - and then make it! You say, “I’m going to intentionally communicate with love.” - and you communicate the action you are taking.

Not only that, talking your communication through like this will help you be more accountable. It will make you live the three steps, and give you a few seconds to figure out what you are actually going to do! Because let’s face it, most of this parenting thing is done extremely in the moment.

What about good manners?

Teach them manners with manners. Teach them respect with respect.

 What about good manners?

I agree. Everybody has their own way to teach their children. Parents are doing their best to teach their children about life. But some situations just make me crazy! Poor kids are feel awful because their parents put them in really uncomfortable situations.  Today I’m writing and advocating for those children.

 Here is the story. There is somebody greeting people at a school event. They are just saying, “Hi” to the families and children coming in. The greater says, “Good afternoon I hope you have a great time.”

 The little boy, Thomas, looks at the greeter and puts his head down. Now comes Mom … “Tomas, say hello, she was talking to you…. Hey… Say hello! Look at her eyes…Respond, somebody is talking to you… Come here, say hello she was telling you something… Say hi or we will go back home.

 Cue the Meltdown followed by… tears, screaming … and some people just staring at them like they don't know how to be out with other people.

 Wouldn’t it be great if children were born with manners? If they were, we wouldn’t have to worry about these moments right? We wouldn’t have to practice this. Don't you remember when you were a kid? Think back to how many times your parents had to tell you… “Say hello… Say hi… Remember when we are going to a new place remember to say good morning.” How old were we when our parents finally stopped repeating that? 12? 15? Even 22???

 Today I want you to have a little more compassion for your own children. Teach them manners with manners. Teach them respect with respect.

 If we want our children to be nice, try to explain nicely how the world works sometimes.

 Put yourself in their shoes:  You are a giant to your children, and so are other adults. When children see a stranger, they see a giant with a weird face that they have never seen before. Just imagine that unknown giant trying to smile at you, or even kiss you, or giving you a big hug that hurts your body. Because remember, you haven't seen that giant before. Then comes Mom, “RESPOND TO THE GIANT!!! SAY HELLO BACK NOW!”

 Scary chain of events isn’t? OK so if you don't want your kids to be scared, just don't scare them.

 How can we help? I am not saying that is ok to let them just walk by and be fine with that. It takes time to create a habit.

 Just model. Always say hello to people when you see them or when you get to a new place. Talk to your children before you get to a new place too. On the way to the place you can talk to them on your walk or in the car. Say, “We are almost there guys, what is the first thing we say when we get there? (Hello)” Explain to them why we say hello and why is important to be respectful. You can also say, “It is very nice that ____ are inviting us to their house (party or event). ____ worked very hard to make this event happen and they are sharing this special moment with us. Isn’t that nice? (make them aware of the situation)” Give feedback. Talk to your children after you go somewhere and review their manners. And when they use their manners, make an observation and say, “I noticed how you say Good morning to Grandma. That was very polite” or “I noticed how you said thank you for having us, that shows that you really appreciate the time you shared with them.”

If your children don't say “Hi” at first, you don't need to give a lecture. Don't worry, they won’t do it at the first time, or the second or the third. This takes time. Just be patient and model, model, model.  You children will get there. Other parents will understand. If people don’t understand, you know that you are doing your best to teach your children with love and respect. That is the only thing that matters.

OUR SYSTEM FOOD DELIVERY

Our system for food delivery.

  1. Start variety early. We were lucky to live close to a rockstar indian place when my wife was pregnant with both boys. Their tastes really do begin in utero. The healthier and more exotic you can eat as a new mom to be - the better.

  2. Involve the children. As soon as they could walk, we had the kids up on the stove top stirring and on the countertop playing with dough and mixing.

  3. Get your staples dialed. Your ingredient list is your shopping list. You need to walk in the direction of more plants and less processed foods. The American grocery store is a wonderful place, but it is amazing how easily wheat thins and potato chips are to put in that cart. Stay strong!

  4. Teach the connections. Your food is an amazing place to start learning about supply chains, the environment, people, the value of work, globalization, local economies, the water cycle - and I’m just getting started. Use your meal preparation time to teach some wonder!

  5. Practice consistency and balance. It is a balancing act. You have to provide healthy options - more plants, less processed food. But you also have to stay consistent over years! That is a monumental task that will be accomplished by choosing a direction and walking that way. You need to look at this as a journey. That means getting into the nitty gritty and focusing just on each little step in front of you. Don’t worry about anything else. As long as you are stepping in the right direction you will get there.

You are not alone in wanting, trying and accomplishing the monumental task of bringing healthy food to your family’s table. Society is stacked against us, but we are making lots of progress. By making healthy choices, you are setting up your children and yourself for success. It is amazing how many of our struggles with our children come from nutrition. They may be cranky, mean, excited and awnry. And guess what? It is because of what they ate, didn’t eat or if the slept or not.

Let's eat Healthy!

Setting the Mood for food…

Setting the mood for dinner is hard. It has taken us three years to change a food related behavior. Kids are in control of what they eat, and they know it. Our relationship with the foods we eat is crucial to our success in life, and the dinner table is the proving ground which puts all strategies of parenthood to the test.

The dinner table is emotional. Our oldest son had an ongoing issue that had him in and out of doctor’s offices. He is fine now, but needless to say one of the most worrying things on our mind during that time was nutrition. Kids need to eat healthy to be healthy right?

All kids, including this one, need to eat more fruits and vegetables. We started there. I’m telling you it has taken 3 years for this kid to consistently eat spinach, and seven years to start liking bananas. There is a whole list of fruits and vegetables we are still working on.

Healthy eating habits basically come down to consistency. Healthy eating is bar none one of the hardest things to change. The whole family has to be on board to some degree, and the parents have to work together. There are many many opportunities to sabotage even the best laid plans, as every dieter knows. Here are some rules we try to live by. After each rule I’ve listed a number on a scale of 1 (worst) to ten (best) on how firm we are on these rules.

  1. Water is the drink of choice (9)

    • The children have their own water bottles, and so do the parents. The children have to be responsible for their water bottles and there is water available at all times.

  2. Eat green with every meal. (5)

    • We try to present at least raw spinach or cut fruit with every meal. While it may be present, the children don’t always eat it. That is OK, but the expectation is set that they at least have to eat some.

  3. Low availability of sugar and processed foods (6)

    • This one is easy to sabotage. The parents want their dark chocolate too! We let everyone have as many pieces as they have decades of life. Dad gets 4! However, one trip to the grocery store can throw everything out of balance because Dad comes home with potato chips or Mom comes home with ice cream.

It is important to note that we try not talk about being fat or skinny with our kids. We don’t want them to become obsessed with that, and they easily do. We try to frame our language around the principles of eating healthy, being strong, and living a long and healthy life. We use real world examples, like one Grandpa who can’t eat sugar anymore because he is close to having diabetes. And another Grandpa who rides his mountain bike two hours a day. Both Grandpa’s have lots of other good and bad habits to share and teach. The children love them both, but that love helps frame the conversation and make the children concerned both for their elders and themselves.


Again, healthy eating is a huge challenge for no-time, no-sleep, crazy parents. This is the one part of children’s lives where they have some control. They will want to use that control! It is not about obedience. It is about setting the tone, getting in for the long haul, and creating a system that works for your family to maintain balance. Next post: Our System.

For fun and easy recipes …

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