Sibling Warfare? Stay Neutral!!

When your kids practically come to blows over which one got more cream cheese on their bagel, you know you’ve got a serious case of sibling rivalry. It’s likely you also know that there’s no avoiding it. “The only way to prevent sibling rivalry is to only have one child or to space kids 18 years apart,” says John Rosemond, author of The New! Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children (Andrews McMeel Publishing). But while you may not be able to keep the peace between your kids, there are things you can do to squash the squabbling.

Be Switzerland Resist the urge to rush in, because “when you intervene, you’re likely to identify one child as the villain and one as the victim,” says Rosemond. The obvious problem: It takes two to squabble, and you may be unfairly maligning one kid. The not-so-obvious problem: You’re creating a dynamic that will quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If that victim gets attention for being a victim, he’s going to continue to elicit that villain behavior from his brother or sister,” Rosemond says. Instead, let them work out squabbles themselves. (Note: If your younger child is 3-years-old or under or you sense either child is in physical danger, by all means play ref.)

Don’t compare siblings to each another You probably know not to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” But it’s a common mistake to compare kids in even more subtle ways: “Julie, look at how nicely your brother is playing with those puzzles.” It’s fine to praise one child’s unique skills; just make sure you don’t have a hidden agenda — like getting Julie to stop hurling puzzle pieces across the room.

Be a supermodel You and your spouse provide a powerful example of how two family members should speak to each other. “If the kids see you arguing and calling each other names, it’s hard to get across the message ‘We don’t do that in this family,’” says Rosemond. So play nice with your spouse, and who knows? You just might hear less bickering from the playroom.

Give each kid space You know the famous line by Robert Frost about how fences make good neighbors? Well, imaginary lines (in the car, in a shared bedroom and so on) make good siblings. To avoid turf wars, “the ideal situation is for each child to have his own clearly defined space,” says Rosemond. If you can’t spare a bedroom, give each child his own desk or toy chest in the communal space.

Don’t insist on shared playdates Sure, it would be easy if your 7-year-old could take your 4-year-old under her wing whenever she has a pal over. But asking older kids to always include younger ones on playdates and fun outings can create serious resentment. Giving older kids private time with their friends will make them more likely to play nicely with their siblings when nobody else is around.

Top 5 Halloween Candy Alternatives: For ALL Kids’ Special Needs

Childhood obesity is now called an epidemic, and many special needs kids have very specific dietary needs so lots of parents and caregivers, not to mention dentists, cringe at the idea of a pillowcase filled with candy on Halloween. There are a growing number of children who have medical conditions, dietary restrictions and/or whose caregivers take a “radical” anti-sugar or organic approach to life, so non-candy offerings can really help these little ones (and not-so-little ones) enjoy the holiday, too. Many times I see the ghouls and goblins that darken my doorstep getting even more excited about the non-candy treats I pass out than if I were to give them yet another pumpkin-shaped confection or lollipop. I’m happy to say that more and more alternatives to candy are appearing in stores and in my kids’ Halloween haul. Here are some ideas for non-candy Halloween treats. Take a stroll down your local store aisles for even more possibilities.

Top 5 Halloween Candy Alternatives

1. Pencils – most school districts are struggling with budget cuts and lack of funding. Halloween or other themed pencils are inexpensive and can be used to add interest to long school days and even longer homework assignments. Look for pencils decorated with cartoon characters, sparkly glitter, space aliens, sports teams and much more. Again, pencils can be bought in packages meant for party favors or even in bulk from party stores and office supply shops. Small note pads, erasers, activity and coloring books and crayons are also great ideas.

2. Trading Cards – whether it’s good old-fashioned baseball cards or one of the current trendy card lines like Marvel Legends, a pack of trading cards has a lot of possibilities inside that small package. Some trading card battle games even help kids practice math, memory and classification skills, which is certainly sweet. Small decks of playing cards or card games are also available in packs of party favors and offer long-term play value instead of a quick sugar rush.

3. Glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces are great for safety on a dark and spooky night of trick-or-treating, and they also make kids feel like they are at a theme park or concert. But they have lots of fun uses inside, too – they light up blanket forts and look great inside carved jack-o-lanterns.

4. Bubbles – you might think bubbles only appeal to the younger set but I’ve seen plenty of teenagers have a blast blowing these around and at each other. It’s also a favorite pre-concert and nightclub activity, making tweens feel a bit like the big kids. Pets love to chase them, too!

5. Temporary tattoos – you can find these in Halloween designs, superheroes, princesses, glow-in-the-dark, encouraging sayings and much more. Glitter tattoos are a big fad right now, and nothing says fun like glitter!

Honorable mention: Stickers – kids love to cover themselves (and their clothes, books and backpacks) in these, which is why doctors, dentists and teachers always use them as rewards.

Frugal Tip: Throughout the year I save small goody bag items that my kids have received but don’t like and put them in a box. Sometimes those restaurant packs of crayons remain unopened, so they go in the box, too. By Halloween I have a nice stash to share with my costumed holiday visitors.

As you can see, you really do have many alternative choices instead of candy this treat-or-treat season – this list is only the beginning. Small craft kits, party packs of modeling clay, stamps, bookmarks, and key chains….the list just might be endless and is limited only by your imagination.

Happy Halloween!

How Kids can Learn to Resist Temptation…and Why They Need to

The Famous Marshmallow Test and Implications for Our Kids’ Later Success

In 1960, Walter Mischel, a psychologist at Stanford University, conducted the now famous Marshmallow Test. Mischel challenged a group of four-year-olds: Did they want a marshmallow immediately, or could they wait a few minutes until a researcher returned, at which point they could have two marshmallows? Mischel’s researchers then followed up on the children upon their high school graduation and found that those who had been able to wait for those marshmallows years before at age four now were far more socially competent: they were found to be more personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to deal with the frustrations of life. The third who waited longest also had significantly higher SAT scores by an average of two hundred points of the total verbal and math scores combined than the teens who, at age four, couldn’t wait. Those results clearly revealed the importance of helping kids develop the ability to cope with behavioral impulses and learn self-control.

Mischel, who is now a professor at Columbia, and a team of researchers are still tracking those four-year olds. Hundreds of hours of observations have been conducted over the years on the participants. At first researchers figured that the children’s ability to wait just depended upon how badly they wanted the marshmallow. But it became apparent that every kid wanted the treat. Mischel now concludes that something else was helping those kids put on the brakes so they could delay their desire. The finding is a critical secret to success and here it is:

Those kids who were able to hold off and not eat the initial marshmallow had learned a crucial skill that helped them do so.

The researcher calls that waiting ability “Strategic Allocation of Attention.” Jonah Lehrer described the self-control skill in an enlightening article entitled, “Don’t!: The Secret of Self-Control” (which I strongly recommend you read).

Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”

That finding has enormous ramifications for our children’s social, academic and even moral success.

Why We Can – and Must – Teach Our Kids to Delay Gratification

But here’s the good news: Mischel and his colleagues believe that parents and teachers may be able to teach children skills that help them learn how to delay gratification and stretch their patience quotients. As Lehrer explains in that The New Yorker article:

When he [Mishcel] and his colleagues taught children a simple set of mental tricks—such as pretending that the candy is only a picture, surrounded by an imaginary frame—he dramatically improved their self-control. The kids who hadn’t been able to wait sixty seconds could now wait fifteen minutes.

“All I’ve done is given them some tips from their mental user manual,” Mischel says. “Once you realize that will power is just a matter of learning how to control your attention and thoughts, you can really begin to increase it.”

Meanwhile research is currently under way in classrooms in which teachers are teaching students “waiting” skills and the preliminary results are promising. The real challenge will be to see if those newly-learned waiting skills can be turned into life-long habits–especially in this N.O.W. culture in which our kids have learned to expect instant gratification and reward, ASAP.

The findings of this research are too critical to overlook. Our first step is to start looking for those countless little everyday moments we can use to help our kids learn to put on the brakes. There are dozens of opportunities. Best ideas are always simple and can be used everywhere (at the grocery store, in the car, at Grandma’s in the classroom, on the soccer field). And then once you find one that works for you, use it over and over and over until it becomes a habit. Here are a few from Thrivers: The Surprising Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine.

1. Change the focus

Mischel found the more abstractly kids thought about the marshmallow, the longer they could delay. Teach one of these tips: “Focus on the least appealing part of the distractor.” “Don’t think about the taste but focus on its shape or color.” “Put a frame around the distractor in your head, like a real picture.” (Those kids could wait almost eighteen minutes!)

2. Use mental diversions

Temptations can rob kids’ focusing abilities and decrease attention spans. Mischel  discovered that when he taught kids easy mental tricks, their focus and self-control improved substantially. The trick is not to think about how delicious that marshmallow is but learn a distraction diverter…

  • Ask your child: “What will be the hardest part?” or “What’s the toughest thing to control? or “What would tempt you most?”
  • Temptations could be “Playing Fortnite instead of doing homework,” “Eating cake instead of dinner” or “Shooting baskets instead of doing my chores.” (Then hide the temptation!).
  • For younger kids you simply divert their attention. “Look at that bird on the tree!” “Count the number of peas on your plate!” “How many things can you find that start with a “B” in the room?

3. Stretch waiting time

Mary Budd Rowe, a noted educator, discovered that children need “wait time”—more time to think about what they hear—before speaking. So whenever you ask a question or give a request, remember to wait at least three seconds for your child to think about what she heard. The child will absorb more information, be more likely to respond, and probably give a  fuller answer. That also means that during those three seconds you need to wait patiently, and continue to give your kid your full presence. Just to see how well you’re doing, the next time you ask your child a question, time yourself: How many seconds are you waiting until you get impatient for her immediate response? Stretch your waiting time.

Your child may barrel straight into every task right now, but your ultimate goal is to gradually stretch his ability to control those impulses and learn to wait at his level. Start by timing how long your child can pause before those impulses get the best of him. Take that time as his “waiting ability” -and then slowly increase it over the next weeks and months.

  • “Wait just a minute, Sweetie. Mom is on the phone.”
  • “I know you want a cookie, but you’ll have to wait ten minutes.”
  • “Sorry. We’re going to open presents after we have our dinner.”
  • “Nope. You get your allowance on Saturday. No loans until then.”

The secret is set your waiting expectations a bit longer than your child’s current waiting ability and then slowly stretch it without snapping it or giving in. (Think of a rubber band: “Stretch but don’t snap.”)

4. Play waiting games

Research shows that what a child learns to say to himself (or “self-instruction”) during  the moments of temptation is a significant determiner of whether he is able to say no to impulsive  urges and/or wait. Keep in mind that those kids who were able to hold off and not eat the  marshmallows usually had learned a skill to help delay those urges.  Here are six strategies from  that help kids control impulses. Choose the one that works best for your child  and then practice, practice, practice together until that new habit kicks in and he can use when he feels those impulses taking over.

  • Freeze. In a calm voice say this to your child: “Freeze. Don’t move until you can get back in control.”
  • Use a phrase. Have him slowly say a phrase like “One Mississippi, two Mississippi.”
  • Hold your breath. Tell your kid not to breathe as long as possible and then to take a few long, deep breaths. (Just make sure he remembers to breathe!)
  • Count. Join your child in slowly counting from on to twenty (or fewer with a younger kid).
  • Sing. For a young child, ask him to pick his favorite tune, such as “Frere Jacques” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and hum a few bars.
  • Watch. Have him look at his wristwatch and count set numbers of seconds (such as ten). Expand that number to what is appropriate to the child.

Of course, don’t stop here. There are dozens of ways to teach your child to wait. The key is to find a strategy that works for your child, and then keep rehearsing it until your child can use it without you. A couple of weeks ago I encountered a mom and her four year old utilizing a great “waiting game” strategy. It was in the woman’s restroom of the Denver Airport with one long line (not the thing any young child needing to use that the bathroom wants to see). Her mom took one look at the line, rolled her eyes and then calmly turned to her daughter. “Boy, looks like a bit of a wait, so we’ll have to stand in line. Meanwhile why don’t you sign the “Birthday Song” about three times and I bet it’ll then be your turn.” That little girl’s impatience quickly morphed into singing a tune of the song. Half the line of women joined in to accompany the tune and her mother was right. At the end of the third chorus, she was at the front of the line. Smart Mom!

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Thrivers Book CoverAcross the nation, student mental health is plummeting, major depression rates among teens and young adults are rising faster than among the overall population, and younger children are being impacted. As a teacher, educational consultant, and parent for 40 years, Dr. Michele Borba has never been more worried than she is about this current generation of kids. In THRIVERS, Dr. Borba explains why the old markers of accomplishment (grades, test scores) are no longer reliable predictors of success in the 21st century – and offers 7 teachable traits that will safeguard our kids for the future. She offers practical, actionable ways to develop these Character Strengths (confidence, empathy, self-control, integrity, curiosity, perseverance, and optimism) in children from preschool through high school, showing how to teach kids how to cope today so they can thrive tomorrow. THRIVERS is now available at amazon.com.

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer…How to Keep Your Family Safe

As the winter months rapidly approach and the cold starts to set in, It is inevitable that people will start to break out the heaters.  It is around this time of year that you will start to see an increase in the number of Carbon Monoxide stories in the news and especially in the hospitals.  It’s the Carbon Monoxide I would like to talk about today.

What is Carbon Monoxide and how can I tell where it is?

Carbon Monoxide or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is created from unburned Fuel Sources such as gas, oil or coal. So any appliance that uses fuel can create carbon monoxide.  Heaters, Furnaces, Dryers, Cars, Fire Places, Chimneys, Generators, Barbecues, etc.. all have the ability to create carbon monoxide.  Please make sure that any fuel burning item in your home has been properly installed and sealed, and that all manufacturer instructions for doing so have been followed.

Items that use electricity do not burn a fuel and do not emit carbon monoxide.  While these items may pose a significant risk of fire when used improperly or left unattended, they do not burn fuel and do not pose a risk of Carbon Monoxide.

Common Locations of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Automobile Garage – Cars warming up or left running in a garage will cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Laundry Room – Laundry machines that run on natural gas or propane can emit propane.
  • Basement – Furnaces and Heaters located in a basement or enclosed area can cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Kitchen – Gas Appliances like ovens can emit Carbon Monoxide.
  • Bedroom – Fuel burning heaters such as gas lamps and heaters can emit Carbon Monoxide.

What are the Signs of CO Poisoning?

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty Breathing.

How Can I Detect CO In My Home?

While CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas it can be detected with Carbon Monoxide monitors that can be bought at many stores.  Things to know about CO detectors before you purchase:

  • CO detectors come in many sizes.
  • CO detectors are NOT all the same. Some detect non-lethal low levels of CO while others only detect potentially lethal high levels of CO.   Please read the package on the detector you purchase.
  • Some can be hardwired to your house alarm system and some use batteries AA or 9volt batteries.

Where In My Home Should I Place CO Detectors?

  • CO detectors should be placed in areas of the house you spend the most time in. The living room, Family Room areas are great places to put them and they should also be placed outside the bedroom areas to alert occupants Before it reaches the bedrooms.
  • CO detectors should not be placed next to or near items that emit a lot of heat as it may cause the device to malfunction. As always, please read and follow the instructions on whichever device you purchase.

What should I do if my CO detector is activated OR someone in my home begins to have the symptoms of CO poisoning?

  • If the detector is activated you should immediately open doors and windows and go outside.
  • Once outside, assess to see if anyone is having symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If anyone is having symptoms CALL 911 AND Follow the instructions they give you.
  • If the alarm continues to sound call 911 and let the fire department clear the home.

For more information on Carbon monoxide you can contact the following:

  • Your local Fire Department
  • Underwriter Laboratories – 1-847-272-8800
  • Utility Companies in your area. The Gas company for example.

As always, I urge everyone to err on the side of caution and CALL 911 if any concern exists about CO in your home. Please be safe and use your items carefully. Here in South Florida during hurricane Irma there were fatalities due to CO because people ran generators and motors inside of their homes while they slept and succumb to CO poisoning.  Always run motors and any fuel burning device in an opened, ventilated area!

Be Safe and stay warm.

BreathableBaby Mesh Crib Liners: For Baby’s Safety AND Comfort

For more than ten years, parenting experts, child product safety organizations, and new parents have been talking about the potential safety hazards of using traditional crib bumpers inside infants’ cribs despite the benefits of preventing head, arm and leg injuries.

We are Dale and Susan Waters, married entrepreneurs from Minnesota who turned fear for our baby’s safety inside her crib into a mission to create something that would not only help protect babies but also provide peace of mind for parents. We invented the Breathable Mesh Crib Liner; a product designed to reduce the risks of suffocation caused by traditional bumpers, while protecting a baby’s limbs from becoming entrapped in the crib slats.

BreathableBaby is Born

12 years ago, we woke to the sound of our 3-month-old daughter screaming in agony from her crib. Our daughter, Sierra had gotten her legs twisted and wedged between the slats of her crib. Her face was pinned against the mattress.

There were many sleepless nights for us and our daughter – no matter what we tried she kept getting her little arms and legs caught between the crib slats. In addition to the obvious pain of being stuck, we feared she would break an arm or leg, or develop neuropathy. But we refused to use a soft, pillowy crib bumper for fear of suffocation.

Research shows that a baby can snuggle up right against their crib bumper. If the baby’s nose and mouth are too close to the bumper, it can potentially cause dangerous re-breathing of carbon dioxide or suffocation. A baby can also get wedged between crib slats and the mattress, unable to escape and possibly suffocate. Because the safety and potential dangers of crib bumpers has been in the news recently, many parents are unsure about how to keep their babies comfortable and safe.

As parents, we were frustrated and upset to learn there was no practical solution available in the marketplace. As designers and entrepreneurs we decided we had to do something about it and devoted ourselves to developing a safer, “breathable” solution – preferably one that was affordable and easy to use. So, we took a break from the media, marketing and music company we owned, and focused on creating a safer solution for babies.

We researched and sourced fabrics, designed and engineered prototypes, held focus groups with mothers and sought extensive third party safety evaluations by a world-leader in safety consultation before finally introducing a safer, smarter mesh crib bumper to the market three years later in 2002.

What makes BreathableBaby mesh crib liners so much safer is our Air Channel Technology™ (A.C.T.) designed to prevent suffocation. A.C.T. maintains air access should a baby’s mouth and nose press up against the fabric. When the BreathableBaby fabric is compressed it is virtually impossible to form an airtight seal.

Since its launch, we’re proud to say that the BreathableBaby™ brand has forged a new category in “breathable” bedding, and is embraced by parents worldwide. Our products have won numerous awards including The Child Safety House Calls Award of Excellence, and National Parenting Center Seal of Approval for innovation, functionality, design and contribution to creating a safer, healthier crib environment.

It’s imperative that parents are aware of the potential dangers that may be part of a baby’s sleep environment. New information is available all the time, so we urge all expectant parents – first time or otherwise – to seek relevant news, alerts, studies and guidelines from news and safety organizations such as the ones listed in our Healthful Hints below.

Wishing you and your little one sweet dreams.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Six Steps to a Safe Sleep Environment For Your Baby

  1. Crib Mattress Should be Firm. A soft mattress may increase suffocation risks. Select a firm mattress that fits the crib tightly and a fitted sheet. You should have a fitted not be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the crib side. Before purchasing a crib, visit www.cpsc.gov to make sure the crib you selected has not been recalled.
  2. No Blankets for Baby. Do not place anything in baby’s crib that could be a suffocation hazard, including blankets. If you’re worried about keeping your baby warm, a better solution is an infant sleeper or wearable blanket that zips around your baby and can’t ride up over her face.
  3. Breathable Mesh Crib Liners. Crib bumpers that are plush, pillowy, and made of non-breathable fabric can increase the risk of suffocation. A safer crib option is one that is mesh or breathable and allows for air flow – even when pressed against a baby’s mouth.
  4. De-Clutter the Crib. For most parents, all those cute stuffed animals and soft blankets might seem a natural fit for the crib, but unfortunately they all pose suffocation risks. Toys and stuffed animals are best saved for interactive play time.
  5. A bottle. Parents of older infants who have started holding their own bottles may be tempted to slip a bottle into the crib in case their baby wakes at night. But even a bottle can pose a suffocation risk. Plus, babies who fall asleep with a bottle in their mouths are prone to tooth decay from the milk sugars that sit on their teeth all night.
  6. Pacifiers. Some studies have shown that giving your baby a clean, dry pacifier reduces SIDS rates.

Resources For More Information On Safe Sleep and Crib Safety

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Editor’s Note:  So often with health and safety issues we have to make trade-offs between one risk and another: take a medicine to address a disease, but deal with the side-effects; exercise for health benefits but risk injuries. In the case of babies and cribs, parents have long had to make a trade-off between keeping babies safe from suffocation due to crib bumpers and protecting them from entanglement and injury in the crib slats. BreathableBaby mesh crib liners help parents address both these issues with peace of  mind. We first ran this BreathableBaby post in 2011 and the company has continued to thrive, with additional products and awards to their credit.