Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Parents: Are you hungry, angry, tired, or lonely?

November 13th, 2015

woman juggling fruit

I survived my early years of motherhood with support and advice from some very knowledgeable, and observant mentors.  I still remember and heed their words.  “Take care of yourself so you can take care of others”.  “Years from now, you will never remember having a dirty sink”.  “Motherhood is a marathon, pace yourself”.  “Get enough sleep.  Everything is worse when you are tired.”  Interestingly their advice focused on me, not my children.  The advice seemed to focus on meeting some basic human needs in order to fulfill my role as a parent.

There advice alone wasn’t enough to meet my needs as a parent.  I signed up for a parenting class and I learned about the HALT acronym.  Like the word implies—HALT requires one to stop, pause and think through one’s behavior.    The acronym stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.   The philosophy of HALT is that when children are hungry, angry, lonely or tired they will be more likely to misbehave and act out.  But I also knew that as a parent I had also experienced the effects of HALT.  When I felt HALT—hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness—I too, became short fused and not at my best.   The technique suggests that parents also “halt” and think about their personal emotional status and wellbeing.

Let’s think about applying the HALT principle to ourselves as parents.

HUNGRY—When we think about hunger, we usually think about how we feel when we are lacking food.  But we can also be emotionally hungry.   We may be hungry for attention, for understanding, friendship, or comfort.  Just as food satisfies our physical hunger, we need social and emotional supports to satisfy our needs.

ANGER—Many of us are uncomfortable at expressing anger and many times it comes out in very unproductive ways—yelling, slamming doors, criticizing, or resentment.  If we have unresolved anger, our relationships with our children suffer.  Physical activity, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, breaks, and professional help can all help a parent cope and resolve feelings of anger.

LONELY–  Parents can easily find themselves isolated and alone.  It’s important to reach out and interact with other people, especially other parents.  Isolation and loneliness can lead to depression.  A depressed parent will have difficulty responding positively to their children.

TIRED  Parents must often deal with interrupted sleep and many parents ignore tiredness.   Physical tiredness can impact our wellbeing and can leave one vulnerable for accidents and conflicts.  Naps, when possible and going to bed earlier can all be solutions for the sleep deprived parent.  Parents can also experience exhaustion from taking on too much or being overwhelmed from leading overly busy lives.   Solutions that I have tried include:  prioritizing, paring down my expectations of myself, and taking a break.

So the next time you are feeling stressed or you find yourself not enjoying parenthood, consider the HALT acronym.  I’ve found it a wonderful tool to gain insight into my children’s behavior, but even more insightful into understanding my own.

Janet Smith

Human Sciences Specialist

Family Life


balancing work and family, mother, parenting , ,

More than half of us have had ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’

October 20th, 2015

This week we welcome our guest blooger Kristi Cooper, Human Sciences Family Life Specialist.

Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s

I love this quote from the program “Lemonade for Life” – “You can’t rewrite the beginning of your story but you can change how it ends.”

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) affect a child’s neurological, social-emotional and cognitive development. ACES may eventually manifest in chronic health conditions in adulthood.

I’m part of the 55% of Iowans who have more than one ACE. When I think of the chaotic times in my childhood, I’m grateful for the touch points that kept me ‘on track’. The research on Adverse Childhood Experiences tells us these touch points are called resiliency factors. These resiliency factors include individual capabilities, attachment and belonging with caring competent people and a protective community, faith or cultural process. Let me share a few of these touchpoints from my own life and maybe you can see how resilience can be woven through the fabric of our lives.

I am grateful for the elementary school nurse who never questioned my stomach aches and always had clean dry clothes for me to wear when I had an ‘accident’. I’m grateful for my 3rd grade teacher’s calm, caring approach and the interesting hands-on projects she had us do. She introduced me to creative writing which became an outlet for me whenever I felt life was overwhelming. I’m grateful for my grandmothers who loved me unconditionally and were always interested in me. I’m grateful for the routine of Sunday church followed by dinner at Grandma’s house with its comfort food, safety, hugs and laughter. All of these helped me feel normal and sane when life felt scary.

Spending time outdoors with cousins was an important touchpoint for me. Our many adventures catching tadpoles and crawdads, jumping the bogs in the pasture, riding bikes for miles, building snow forts and climbing in the empty corncrib took my mind away from the hurtful times. Music was another touchpoint for me. I saved my 4-H and birthday money and bought a guitar. With the creative writing gift from Miss Ihnen and my new instrument, I made it through a few more turbulent years.

All of these touchpoints helped to reset my stress response – all it takes is a 20 minute activity to reduce heart rate, regulate breathing again and re-focus the mind. As an adult I use meditation, yoga, journaling and sewing projects to reduce anxiety, keep depression away and help my mind think clearly. I have a therapist I consult when I need to sort things out. I’ve used my early experiences to change how I parented my children, hopefully, changing the course of my grandchildren’s lives. These individual resiliency practices combined with positive social relationships and trauma informed community resources help heal the impact of adverse childhood experiences and to reduce the impact of traumatic events.

What are the touchpoints that help(ed) you survive and thrive?

Kristi Cooper

Adverse Childhood Experiences, communicating, corporal punishment, education, parental relationships, parenting, Resiliency, social-emotional , , , , , , ,

When a Grandparent Has Dementia

August 11th, 2015

When a grandparent has dementia, the grandchildren may not understand why grandma or grandpa is becoming forgetful, mom or dad is stressed out and everything is different than it used to be. However, parents can help their young children and adolescents learn to cope.  The most important message is to be as honest as you can. Offer clear explanations and plenty of reassurance. Try to get a sense for how much information each child can cope with, and tailor your discussion accordingly.

This month we will discuss ways to talk to children and adolescents about dementia and share ideas about how to help children cope. Research has shown that dementia can dramatically change the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, but it doesn’t have to be all negative.

Join us  as we talk about caregiving adults with dementia and the impact it has on young children.


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STEM at the fair

July 13th, 2015

It’s summer time! That means it’s county fair time. Do you know how much science, technology, engineering and math happens at a county or state fair?

Confession time, I was not a fair kid growing up. I thought that if I went to the county fair I would just see my friend’s farm animals and the cookies they had been practice baking for months. No really, that’s what I thought! I have come to learn however that it is about amazing fabulous STEM opportunities and experiences. Even as a visitor, your opportunities to experience STEM are endless.

When I searched ‘what to do at the fair’ I found an endless list of activities for families. From milking cows, to using robots, to participating in food demonstrations (read EAT), from creating your own artwork, to learning about wildlife and insects.  And these were just the 3 links I found from 3 different states! Not to mention all the counties in those various states that were sharing their fair activities.

Take a moment and think about how you might be able to encourage STEM activities in a fun and family friendly environment with your children. Most fairs are low cost or have discount days/times. They cater to families with children and want to create an engaging family focused time for you. Get creative while you’re at the fair. Create family challenges or mini-competitions at the exhibits and demonstrations. Enjoy the demonstrations and talk about how you might do something similar in your own home. Take the fair boards up on their offer, find a fair close to you and show your kids that you know a little about STEM too.

We would love to hear about your favorite fair experiences.


communicating, education, family time , ,

Parenting..More Than a “To-Do” List

May 28th, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-476027825 (3)

I have two children that have graduated from high school and the youngest will start his sophomore year in high school this fall.   So my parenting years are dwindling. Do I have any regrets?  Well…I’m sure like many busy mothers; the years seemed to fly by and most of the time, I was blessed with children who were typically “easy” and didn’t demand intensive parental intervention.   Somewhere during those early years I remember reading a book by William Doherty, Ph.D. about being “intentional”. Doherty’s book helped me to realize the importance of everyday rituals that could strengthen our family and marital relationships.   I learned that I couldn’t do it ALL.  But I also learned that being intentional meant setting priorities.   And I learned that if I didn’t set goals, things just wouldn’t get done.  But sometimes, I just got tangled up in the never ending details of family life and responsibilities.  My kids have always been good at keeping me centered on what was most important.  I learned that when they were most unlovable, they needed love the most.  And when they were quiet and happily playing alone, they needed me just as much as when they were whining and pulling at my leg for attention.  We have attempted to make our family communication a two way street.  I know that I have learned as much from my children, as they have learned from me.  One of my most treasured “ah-ah” moments for me came from a mother’s day gift—from my then 12-year old daughter.   She framed a Dove Chocolate wrapper—with the fitting quote, “Life is more than a to-do list”.  How shaming, yet so very spot on!  I was taken back by her subtle communication tactic.  But I took her advice to heart and I still have the chocolate wrapper as a reminder of the most important things in life.  Be intentional and remember to take time for what matters most.

Janet Smith

balancing work and family, family time , ,

My favorite temperament type

April 11th, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-465790704Oh oh…. I said it out loud (well sort of). The feisty child one of my favorite temperament types! I just can’t help it! I love interacting with a feisty temperament. I know that sounds silly but even as a preschool teacher I was always at my best when I was engaged with the feisty kiddo. Maybe ‘favorite’ isn’t the right word to use. I guess it was just that ‘I get them’. I understand the feisty traits. I ‘get’ where they are coming from.

Now just to clarify, I’m pretty sure my parents would not have labeled me as feisty. My feisty traits were sprinkled with a whole lot of adaptability. Which, for me, held the negative parts of feisty in check. So when it comes to feisty temperaments I understand that sense of  being determined. Of wanting what I want. Of being persistent. In the moment of feistiness, I know how your ‘gut’ feels. What your stomach is doing. How fast your brain synapses are firing. I understand that, I get it.

So what did I learn about interacting with a feisty temperament? Most importantly, that a calm, cool and collected demeanor is the best way to approach the feisty child. You see, amidst their feistiness they won’t be able to hear your ‘reasoning or logic’. Their feistiness is in the way. It’s too loud in their head, they literally can’t hear you. But, they can still see your reactions.

That’s about all that you can do sometimes. SHOW them. Model for them how you want them to respond or behave. There’s little time or room for long drawn out liturgies and lessons on appropriate language or the use of gentle touches. Feisty kids need that ‘extra‘ moment to see calm cool and collected from you. They are looking for you to ‘show‘ them how to tame that feisty feeling that has overtaken their body.

So very hard sometimes yet so very vital to teaching them self-control.

What are some techniques you have ‘shown’?

Lori Hayungs




communicating, conflict, discipline, energy, parenting, positive parenting, relationships, spanking, temperament , , , , , ,

I’d like to customize my order please

March 27th, 2015

…thats the phrase that came to mind when I thought about this week’s blog. Which, when it comes right down to it, I do want my child to be unique. A customized order. An individual. Not a cookie cutter replica of her friends. Having said that, I guess I should then expect myself to parent her as if she IS customized.

While we search for THE right answer to our parenting questions,we really do come realize that there isn’t just ONE right way, not even in a family with multiple children. Parenting is all about understanding each individual unique child and beginning to dance with their customized self. In the moments where parenting is frustrating, I have learned to give myself permission to be frustrated while at the same time learning to appreciate that I have created something unique. Customized. Created by me with input from her, her friends, her neighbors, her community and her world. Taking all those pieces and watching and wondering at the same time.

Sometimes its important as a parent to step back and let the child lead the dance that we have been talking about over the last several weeks. Other times it’s important to be the adult and make the decisions (and follow through). Parenting is a back and forth, leading and guiding and following all at the same time. THAT’s what makes it customizable. It shouldn’t look just like the next door neighbors family, or your own childhood experiences or the tv show on a popular network.

You and your child should customize your world together and enjoy the journey along the way.

How have you customized your journey?

Lori Hayungs

communicating, discipline, parental relationships, parenting, positive parenting, social-emotional , , , , ,

Was I too late?

March 13th, 2015

for blog smallerWhen my oldest child was one year old, I was introduced to the world of ‘Temperament’. I remember thinking at that time, “She’s already 1! Am I too late! What if I already ruined her by not knowing her temperament!?”

It sounds silly now, as she teeters on the brink of 18, but back then all I could think about was the year I had missed BT (Before Temperament). I can tell you this with 100% confidence. It is NOT TO LATE! Learning to understand your child’s temperament, along with your own temperament, can happen at any time. It can happen right now regardless of your child’s age.

This month we talk about taking the time to learn your child’s ‘temperament style’ and then parent according to that style. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’.  Taking care of any child (grandchild, neighbor, niece, nephew, sibling) isn’t even close to ‘one size fits most’. Building relationships with children means taking the time to learn to appreciate what their genetics granted them, find a way to build their confidence and self-esteem and guide them into social competence.

Where can you start? By learning about their style. By appreciating the unique characteristics of that style. By implementing one thing to show them you understand that style.  Here are a couple of GREAT places to start.

ISU Extension and Outreach Understanding Children publications

Lets Talk … Child Care : Temperament

Preventive Ounce

Temperament: Understanding Behavioral Individuality


What is that ONE thing that you will do to parent ‘to their unique style’. Share with us!

Lori Hayungs

communicating, fathers, friendship, grandparenting, mother, parental relationships, parenting, positive parenting, raising teens, relationships, social-emotional, temperament , , , , , , , ,

Dancing with a Wallflower or Parenting the “Slow to Warm Up” Child

February 11th, 2015

shutterstock_219620059My daughter is the ultimate “wallflower” when it comes to dancing through life.  I am fortunate to have had the personal experience of parenting  a “slow to warm up” temperament child.   I will share some parenting strategies or “dancing  steps” that I have learned over the years that I think have enhanced our relationship and her development.

First—as a parent I know Hannah well.  I know when she is stressed.  I know when she is scared.  I know when she is apprehensive.  I have learned when she needs support and when she needs a little push.  I have learned how to support and not hover.  This ability to read our kids temperament is the first and most important step in creating the “goodness of fit” that we discussed in our latest Science of Parenting podcast.

I lovingly call her my “wallflower”.  Many times she was overlooked in classroom or in social activities because she was quiet and easily over powered by those with more eager, robust temperaments.  She required more time to adjust to new situations, new environments, and new people.  She was and continues to be highly sensitive to sounds, food, smells, and textures.  She requires time to observe, and become comfortable.  Large groups, busy places, and surprises were hard for her to adjust to.  I learned early in her life—to provide early notification and discussion of what she was going to experience.  Coaching and communicating were important for her comfort.  She is almost twenty now, but still finds comfort in familiarity.

When parenting a “slow to warm up” child, it is important to nurture their development and self-esteem.  They need acceptance.   This means encouraging strengths ( for example- ability to play on her own, or to observe what’s going on around her carefully), and providing support when she needs it (visiting and exploring a new class in child care to help her feel comfortable).

When you notice and appreciate the similarities and differences between you and your child, you can adapt the way you parent in order to meet your child’s individual temperament needs.  This helps your child feel loved, confident, important, and capable.  Sensitive parenting helps your child know and feel good about themselves as they mature.  Lastly, encourage your child to engage in activities that they enjoy.  Avoid the “shy” labels.  Give ample time to help them get used to the idea of doing something new.  Advocate, coach and encourage.

American society tends to view sensitivity and “shyness” as negative traits, but as a parent of a —slow to warm up now adult child I have learned that they have much to offer.  They are perceptive, observant, caring, empathetic and deeply in touch with their feelings and emotions and importantly those of others.  Traits not always easily found in others.    Love and value your kids for who they are.   I love my wallflower….Hannah.


Janet Smith

parenting, social-emotional, temperament , ,

Conversations, conversations, conversations

January 31st, 2015

Dr. Constance Beecher, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach shares more with us about expanding children’s vocabulary.

“Vocabulary can be developed by directly teaching new words, or indirectly through having a lot of exposure to words in books and conversations.   Research suggests a combination of both is the best approach, says Dr. Beecher.”

“Developing vocabulary indirectly through books and conversations has many benefits. Children who are read to frequently gain a life-long love of reading. The more children hear different words and understand their meaning, the better readers they will become. This is because learning to read requires an understanding of the relationship between the sounds of language (phonemic awareness) and the symbol or letter that represents that sound (phonics). The more words children know, the better they are able to understand the letter/sound relationship, and conversely, the more knowledge children have about the letter/sound relationship, the better they are able to learn new words,” Dr. Beecher.

She also suggests, “Parents can read a variety of books to and with children, and pause at words that children may not know to explain their meaning. For example, while reading “Corduroy went up the escalator.”, pause and ask “do you know what an escalator is?”. Then define: “An escalator is a set of stairs that moves you from one floor to another.” Then explain: “Last week while I was at Macys, and I rode an escalator from the first floor to the second floor”. Then relate to child: “Where have you ridden on an escalator?” – state the question in a way so that the child can say the word, or ask child to repeat word.”

Dr. Beecher reminds us that, “When having conversations, ask open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes/no). During these conversations, you can introduce synonyms. For example, you might be talking about what happened at daycare or preschool. If your child talks about making a tall tower in the block area, you can say “Oh, you made an enormous skyscraper?” “Enormous is another word for something is very big or tall”, and when a building is enormous, we call it a skyscraper. Why do you think we say skyscraper?”. This gives children an opportunity to practice the new words. Children need opportunities not only to hear new words, but to practice saying them.”

And she also wants us to remember the Non-fiction! Non-fiction or informational books are a great source of new vocabulary. When children are exposed to a wide range of vocabulary in areas like science or history, they are more prepared when they have to read these types of texts in school. See websites like this for suggestions,

Or talk with your librarian. This list of non-fiction books for ages 3-5 comes from the State Library of Iowa

Dr. Beecher says, “You can add vocabulary to your everyday activities. When you take your car to the shop to change your oil, talk about oil, engines, and other components of a car. When you go to a nursery to pick out new plants and flowers for your yard be sure to note the different names of flowers, types of grass, plants and trees. When you make a new recipe, talk about spaghetti, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, sautéing. Use a mix of nouns and verbs.”

She says, “It takes about an average child about 12 times of interacting with a word before he or she is familiar enough with the word to use it, and many times we do not provide enough opportunities for children to get this practice.”

And Dr. Beecher’s final thoughts? “Lastly, make it fun. There is no need to sit children down with flashcards and ask them to define words. Reading and talking together will make learning vocabulary natural and fun.”


Share with us ways that you have made ‘vocabulary’ fun!

Lori Hayungs






communicating, family time, language development, miscellaneous, parenting ,

Another Step on the Journey

November 6th, 2014

Life is a journey. There are many steps, twists, and turns along the way. Some we plan and others just happen. But together, these steps make our journey our lives. In 2011 I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Science of Parenting team. As a family life educator, parent, and grandparent, I found this an exciting step. It’s been a joy to work with Lori as we shared timely topics via the podcasts, blogs, and webinars.

Now another turn in the path takes me to a different role within Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Janet Smith will now work with Lori to move Science of Parenting forward. I will occasionally respond to blogs because I plan to continue reading and learning.

Parenting is also a journey. While planning is helpful, life with children is full of surprises. Science of Parenting is designed to be an educational support along the way. Enjoy the journey!

Donna Donald


That Wasn’t the Smartest Choice

September 26th, 2014

“Why in the world did you do that?” “Didn’t you think about what you were doing?” Ok, I’ve heard these words and I’ve said these words. Sometimes kids make bad choices and sometimes parents and adults don’t make the best decisions.

If we ask kids why they make some of the choices they do, responses might be:

  • It seemed like the thing to do at the time.
  • I just did it. I didn’t think about any consequences.
  • Who takes time to think?
  • I wanted to be cool with my friends.
  • We just wanted to have a little fun.
  • I don’t need my parents telling me what to do all the time.

These aren’t exactly what parents want to hear, but let’s face it. Kids will do unwise (even stupid) things as they grow up. That is one way they learn. It is important for parents to help ensure that kids do indeed learn and don’t repeat bad choices.

So how does this work? Well, one important piece is to let kids be held accountable and bear the consequences. Turned in homework late – lost points on the grade. Didn’t do assigned chores – have to miss favorite TV show to catch up. Broke curfew for football team – sit on the bench for a game.

If a child’s safety isn’t compromised, most of the time parents can allow the consequences to teach the lessons of making decisions. How have you responded when your child makes a bad choice?

Donna Donald


decision making, parenting, raising teens , ,

I Need Access

August 22nd, 2014

This was an easy one for me. I need access. This little phrase means several things.

Maybe you thought it was the child saying “I need a phone because I need access”. Actually, when I typed the phrase it meant “I need access to your phone.”  Those are the rules. Like Donna talked about, phones need to come with rules. Access is an important one. As the adult, it is our responsibility to monitor what happens with the phone. We need access to it. Social media on smart phones and texting on other phones can be exciting and dangerous at the same time. We need to monitor and have access. It’s not really a negotiable issue. Having a phone is a big responsibility and a privilege. Parental access to it is a must.

What are some negotiable and non-negotiable rules with your kids’ cell phones? Share them with us.

Lori Hayungs

discipline, media and kids , , ,

I need a phone

August 7th, 2014

Getting ready for school in the fall used to mean buying new clothes, some basic school supplies and maybe a new backpack. Today a new cell phone often is at the top of the back-to-school list, but do kids really need cell phones?  We know that many kids want cell phones, but not all kids need them. A child should be mature enough to understand how to use the phone safely and be responsible for taking care of it. And whether your child is asking for a first phone or wants to upgrade to the newest version, talk about his or her motivation. Why exactly does he or she need this particular phone?”

Join us this month as we work through the pro’s and con’s of cell phones and children.

media and kids, parenting, podcast ,

Making a difference….. Strong Families

July 31st, 2014

Reading Donna’s post last week about the word ‘no’, reminded me of a fabulous program that we have all over the United States (and even internationally)..

Created right here at Iowa State the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 has made a difference in thousands of families in all 50 states and in over 25 countries.

I want to share this quote from the website:

“Parents want to protect their children, but it’s challenging. Youth need skills to help them resist the peer pressure that leads to risky behaviors. Research shows that protective parenting improves family relationships and decreases the level of family conflict, contributing to lower levels of substance use. ”

Sometimes taking the time as a family to participate in programs like SFP 10-14 seems daunting… but if we knew that by participating we could help our teens gain skills that might help them make good decisions when we weren’t around, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Find out more about the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 here .

If you have been able to take part in an SFP 10-14 program we would love to hear from you!


Lori Hayungs

miscellaneous, parenting, peer pressure