Three Presents

I received a wonderful message from a reader of our blog. I asked the writer for permission to share.   I love when our readers let us know that something has touched them personally. 

Beautiful little girl child with shopping colorful paper bags in

Listen in on Laura’s thoughts….and thank you Laura for being willing to share.

When I was growing up, each of us seven kids in my family received three Christmas presents from Mom and Dad, under the guise of Santa Claus: a toy present, a clothes present, and a book present. There may have been discrepancies in the total cost of each kid’s gifts, but that didn’t matter to us. We each had three packages to open. It was fair.

This system also helped Mom and Dad administer their Christmas budget. They were not the type to go into debt; if they couldn’t pay for it, they didn’t buy it. But they could plan ahead – quite necessary when dealing with 21 presents (seven kids times three)!

In addition, they taught us kids a lesson about finances. They told us that parents would leave money on the kitchen table for Santa – to pay him for the presents. They said some parents could leave more money for Santa than they could, while other parents couldn’t leave as much. Santa then considered each family’s Christmas list against the money and provided accordingly. That made sense to us and was a simple way to explain why some of our friends might get more, or fewer, presents than we did.

But most important, my parents were sharing their values. We learned we couldn’t have everything we wanted – we had to make choices. Sure we may have wanted three toys, but we also needed socks or a new pair of pants – we learned to understand limits. We also grew to enjoy and value reading.

I took my parents’ three present system to heart, and my husband and I followed it with our own children.

I can’t quote the exact research that supports my parents’ – and my – approach to holiday gift giving. But it seems to be in line with the concepts the specialists’ teach: treat children fairly, practice love and limits, promote literacy, and stick to your budget.

Laura Sternweis

Laura is a communications specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She has a B.S. in communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point and an MS in rural sociology from Iowa State. She’s a former farm kid and the parent of two young adult children.

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Consider Giving Kids Less Stuff, More Time during Holidays

father helps son with woodworking projectWelcome guest blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, Human Sciences Specialist Family Life.

Although the holidays can be a season of giving, sometimes the focus shifts to a season of getting, or so it may seem from a child’s perspective. It’s OK to give gifts to our children. We all want to see our children happy, and as parents we give from the goodness of our hearts. However, it’s easy to overdo it, especially around the holidays. This can become a pattern, and before we know it, we’re overindulging our children – giving them too much, too soon and for too long.

Research shows that overindulging children puts them at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including a need for immediate gratification, an overblown sense of entitlement and a materialistic mindset and goals. Children who are overindulged may have poor self-control, as well as a more difficult time developing adult life skills.  Giving children too much stuff is just one form of overindulgence. Other forms include soft structure, meaning a lack of rules and responsibilities, and over-nurturing – doing things for children that they should be doing themselves.

So how can parents know whether they are crossing the line into overindulging their children?

Researchers Jean Illsley Clarke, David J. Bredehoft and Connie Dawson started the Overindulgence Project – Overindulgence.info – in 1996, studying the relationship between childhood overindulgence and subsequent adult problems and parenting practices. To date, they have completed 10 studies investigating overindulgence involving more than 3,500 participants.

The researchers suggest parents ask themselves four questions:

  • Do these gifts use a disproportionate amount of family resources?
  • Does what I am doing harm others, society or the planet?
  • Does this meet my needs (as the adult) more than the needs of my child?
  • Does it hinder my child from learning developmental tasks?

If parents answer yes to one or more of these questions, they probably are overindulging their children. However, there are some simple ways to get back on the right track.

  • First of all, if you have been overindulgent, take responsibility. Being in denial about it means that you can’t change anything.
  • Second, forgive yourself. If you’ve gone overboard in the past, don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at how you can move forward, do things differently and learn from your previous experience.
  • Next, work on one problem area at a time. Don’t try to suddenly change everything about your parenting style at once, as that will likely be too overwhelming. Maybe you start by deciding not to give your children so much stuff – toys, electronics, etc. – this holiday season, but consider giving them the gift of your time. For example, parents could create a “gift certificate” for a parent and child lunch date, or plan for an afternoon playing board games or having a baking day together. Or start even smaller and decide you won’t give in to your child’s next temper tantrum at the grocery store.

Just because you’ve overindulged your children in the past, doesn’t mean your children have been damaged forever. You can get back on track and raise your children to become responsible adults who show respect for others.
Share with us how you have takes steps to work on overindulging your children. Your ideas may help others!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Gift and Giving

christmasgiftboxWelcome guest blogger, Carol Ehlers, Human Sciences Specialist, Family Finance for this months topic on “Gits and Giving”

Simple Christmases that are low on cost but high on meaning are possible. In fact, a $10 limit per person is possible by carefully planning holiday spending.

The first step to achieving a small holiday limit is to make the decision to hold down spending. Tell relatives and friends you’re choosing to set a budget for exchanging gifts. This can be hard to do, but you may find that keeping holiday spending down can pay off in some unexpected ways.

Next, decide how to spend the budgeted Christmas funds. Will some be spent on the adults, or will it all be spent on the children?

Be creative by giving “low-cost experiences.” Many studies show that material possessions do not equal happiness and that experiences are much more intrinsically fulfilling than things. A Cornell University 10 year study and Journal of Psychological Science report confirm why experiences have the ability to contribute to happiness more than material purchases. Successful low-cost experience examples range from pottery making, rock climbing, horseback riding, bowling or skate tickets. Consider “Every Kid Outdoors” (a free year-long national park pass everykidoutdoors.gov or geocache treasure hunts that end with ice cream. Consider sharing a skill or classes to experience sewing, painting or other similar activity. To keep it low-cost, find a family member, friend or community event to teach the skill at a discount.

Proven family focused gifts range from museum or science center memberships–to orchestra or community theater tickets– to a tent for camping. Sometimes a material gift can lead to an experience.

Families who have tried this low-cost Christmas have found it was more meaningful. Families that keep to their Christmas budget plan enjoy the feeling of financial security knowing there won’t be large bills to try to pay in January. There is also a good chance those inexpensive and thoughtful gifts will bring out the best in everyone and will be more meaningful.

We would love to hear about your inexpensive gift ideas! Share with us!

For more ideas download a free copy of ISU Extension and Outreach publication “Track Your Spending,” or “This is the Way I Spend My Money” a 12-month spending record.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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One More Throwback – Kindness

camp2If you look on the left hand side of the blog website you can see the ‘tags’ of some of the issues we’ve covered over the years.

I decided to pull another topic and added a few of our resources to go with it.  Please browse the topics – I have enjoyed re-reading and listening to some of our throwbacks.

Kindness is Learned by ‘Feeling’ Kindness

Service Learning – available in English or Spanish

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Throwback Time- Creating Grateful Children

Kids volunteering at food drive

Last December we shared information with you on Creating Grateful Children . Throughout November, we are going to take you back to some of our previous topics as a way of continuing to create conversations relevant to today’s parenting dilemmas.

As you listen to the podcast, consider how gratitude has come into play in your family over the last year. Did you implement any of the ideas in the “Teaching Children How to be Grateful” blog? Did you see additional ideas in the What We All Want video?

It seems like whenever November comes around people begin to talk about being thankful and or grateful. But I’m curious… how did you share your thankfulness and gratefulness all year log.

Share with us, we would love to hear from you.

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Technology as an Ally

I just finished a conversation with a broadcast news reporter regarding our topic for the month. One comment of his really had an impact on me. “So what you’re saying, is that we need to see technology as an ally in our parenting instead of the enemy,”

He is absolutely correct. As our children begin to use more and more technology in their day to day life, it becomes important for us as parents to see how we can interact with them both. Both, meaning the child and the technology.

One of the things he and I talked about was utilizing technology outdoors to enhance our time exploring nature. Imagine going on a nature walk with your child. You find a peculiar looking bug. If you happen to have technology with you, in an instant you can look up what kind of bug you found. You can learn facts about its habitat, life expectancy and even its eating habits. With technology, you have just enhanced the nature walk right then and there with your child.

Technology and parenting doesn’t have to be an all or nothing battle between you and your child. Why not think of it as a way to enhance your relationship and explore the possibilities of learning together alongside technology. Find the balance between ‘no technology’ parent-child time and ‘focused use of the technology’ (as your ally) .

We would love to hear ways that you have used technology to enhance interactions with your child? Share with us!

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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21st Century Technology Skills and Children

Child and phone at schoolAs more adults and children want or already have a cell phone, tablet or other device, families may being to wonder: How much technology is too much – or not enough? Our phones, tablets and computers give us a direct connection to all kinds of information, games and entertainment, and communicating with family and friends. The technology also provides opportunities for learning. According to the National Education Association, in order for today’s students to compete globally, they need 21st century skills: They have to be able to communicate, create, collaborate and think critically.  Understanding how to use technology can help kids, and parents, build these skills. However, screen time can get out of control at any age. The technology we have access to has the potential to help us, if we are disciplined enough to know when to use it and when to put it down, and interact with the people around us. As they say, everything in moderation, and that includes technology too. Just because a particular technology is available, doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. As a parent, you have the final say in what and how much technology comes into your home.

This month the Science of Parenting Bloggers will discuss how technology can be family friendly, how to support the positive use of social media with family members, and how to set boundaries for a healthy balance of technology and face-to-face social interaction.

 

october-technology

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Teen employment. Personal perspectives.

I started thinking about this blog from my own perspective. Typed up a fabulous post. I checked my spelling and punctuation. Just before hitting submit I stopped and wondered. What if I asked a real live teenager about how they felt their part-time job benefited them? Would they confirm what research shows? And what if I talked to an employer that provides many youth with part-time work experiences? Would they also support the studies on youth and jobs?

So that’s what I did. I realize this maybe isn’t the most scientific way to confirm research, but I still think its valid and maybe somewhere a tad bit reliable.

Insights from youth:

  • “I had to learn how to keep a calendar and think ahead. Trying to think about when I may need to ask off for family vacations was a new thing for me. Sometimes I had to learn the hard way.”
  • “I learned that sometimes even when you are polite others may not be. I learned to be polite anyway. I think that being able to do that was important as I moved on to college. I didn’t take things as personally because of what I learned at my job.”
  • “Having a boss tell you what to do is different than having parents or teachers tell you what to do. I think that was a big adjustment because I learned how people work differently together.”
  • “Keep track of your money. Ask your parents to help you put money away to save.”

As I reviewed what we shared during the podcast earlier this month, I found that the students that I talked with confirmed what research shows. Youth learn responsibility, time management, record keeping and social skills from being employed.  Maybe I have a career in research after all.

Let us know about what youth in your lives have learned from their jobs. We’d love to hear!

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Children and Financial Literacy

As we continue to share about children and money, we would like to highlight this blog from fellow Human Sciences teammates in the Family Finance arena.

Maybe After A Million Words

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Teens and Jobs

girl gardeningTeenagers may view getting a job simply as a way to earn money, and that’s a valid reason to work. However, employment may bring additional benefits to teens and perhaps a few concerns for their parents. Teens who have earnings from a part time job can learn how to save and budget their money. This is important, because money management is an essential life skill. Research shows that youth also learn responsibility and gain time management, record keeping and social skills from being employed. Although, parents may worry that teens who take on a part time job may let their school work slip, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, notes several studies indicating a positive relationship between working 20 or fewer hours per week and higher levels of subsequent educational attainment. Today’s teens need educational and work experiences that will enable them to compete for jobs, excel academically and live healthy lives.

In September, we’ll explore how employment helps teens develop essential life skills.

September 2016

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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The Stress of Special Needs

iStock_000005759838Small[1]Downs_1 copyThe demands of parenting often are multiplied for parents of children with special health and behavioral needs. However, these parents will be better able to provide care for their children if they also take care of themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 15 percent of U.S. families have a chronically ill child with special health needs. The extra demands cause stress that affects the whole family.

Caring for a child with special needs can require additional time, which can mean you have less time for your other children, your spouse or aging parents, who also need your attention. Maybe you’ve been criticized or judged by others who simply do not understand your child’s condition. You may feel isolated from other parents, because how could people who don’t have a child with special needs possibly know what you are going through?  Parents often are trying to learn about their child’s disability and find treatments and resources. They’re coping with the emotional and physical challenges of providing care as they coordinate healthcare treatments, advocate for their child and pay for necessary services. No wonder parents of children with special needs often are exhausted and even depressed,

Join us this month as we self-care tips and resources that can help parents cope. We will discuss ways that family members can support each other and we’ll also talk about when and how to reach out for assistance. In addition we will explore resources for reducing stress that are available through ISU Extension and Outreach.

August 2016

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Dirt and Kids Go Hand in Hand

Beautiful child with sunflower in spring fieldConfession. I am not a gardener. Well, I’m not a vegetable gardener. I can grow a mean hibiscus and a lovely tulips but vegetables stump me. Its not that I don’t day dream about growing a bountiful garden, I just haven’t quite figured out how to get started. So in an effort to set the stage for the rest of the month I want to first say, “you don’t have to do it all”.

If you had a chance to listen to the podcast you heard about all the great things that children learn from gardening. Truth be told, they can also learn many of those things while caring for flowers and house plants as well. So before you say, “This month isnt’ for me”, consider the live plants that you may already have. Consider the flowers you may currently be watering. Substitute them for the gardening ideas (except for the eating part).

Share with your children how to keep they happy and healthy. Teach them how to put them in sunlight or shade. Ask them questions as you thin, separate and re-pot them. Tell them about the benefits of growing green plants in an indoor environment as well as outdoor. And most importantly don’t give up on the the fact that you really are a gardener. I haven’t.

Let us know about your green thumb.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Children and Gardening

Want kids to eat their vegetables and do better in school? Get them involved in gardening. Research has shown that children who have the opportunity to plan, plant and harvest are more likely to eat vegetables and to continue eating vegetables throughout their life time. Gardening also can help children apply concepts learned in school. For example, writing and journaling are important garden skills, and math and measurements are necessary for garden design. If you and your family can have your own garden, that’s great; but there are other ways to get kids interested in gardening.

  • Head to the public library, because books are a great way to start the conversation, Hayungs said. “A book about vegetables can get you talking about your child’s favorites. Talk about the colors, feel and taste of veggies.”
  • Visit a farmers market or grocery store and talk about new or unusual vegetables on display.
  • Explore the nutrition and growing facts about different vegetables. Then make a list of favorites and begin to think about a garden growing plan.

 

Learn more from tips in the podcast below and share your thoughts and experiences with us.

 

Podcast script July 2016

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Food decisions for picky eaters

This week we welcome guest blogger Renee Sweers.Renee is a mother of 4, grandmother of 3, a registered dietitian, and a Human Sciences Specialist in Nutrition and Wellness.

When my eight-year-old daughter said, “Please pass the melon.”  I nearly fell out of my chair! This was the girl that didn’t eat fruit, other than apples and plums!  I wouldn’t call her a picky eater, but when it came to fruit, she was.  Not only did she eat cantaloupe at that meal, but she slowly added more fruits to her diet and as an adult eats many different fruits.

I tell this incident for a few reasons:  1) Don’t stop offering foods just because a child doesn’t think they like them; you never know when they might give them a try.  Research tells us children may need to be offered a food 10 – 15 time before they will try it. 2)  Don’t bargain with children about eating.  If we had been forcing her to try melon over the years she may not have been willing to start eating it at age eight.  3)  Take heart!  A child who is picky may grow up to eat a wide variety of foods as an adult.

According to Ellyn Satter, a dietitian, family therapist and expert in feeding children, both adults and children have certain ‘responsibilities’ or ‘decisions’ when it comes to food.

Adult Decisions:

-What a child should eat:  Offer a variety of foods from all five food groups of MyPlate every day.  Be sure to offer at least one food at every meal that the child likes

-When and Where a child should eat:  Offer meals at regular times each day.  Offer snacks equally spaced between meals.  Eat with the child at a table and turn off the TV and other distractions.

Child Decisions:

-How much to eat and which foods to eat. Don’t bribe a child to eat.  Don’t require one bite.  Respect them when they say they are full.

-Whether or not to eat.  Occasionally a child doesn’t want to eat.  It is fine to require them to ‘sit at the table with the family’, just don’t force them to eat.

When children are allowed to make their eating decisions and adults focus on their decisions (and not the child’s) then adults are providing structure, support and opportunities for healthy eating.  Children are allowed to choose what and how much to eat from the foods the adult has provided.

Try these strategies to make mealtimes more fun and less struggle.

 

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Dealing with Picky Eaters

Many parents worry about what their children eat — and don’t eat. However, when parents and children engage in mealtime battles, nobody wins. Instead, parents should focus on preventing power struggles over food. The reality is that most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diet, even if they don’t want to eat particular foods. But if you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, talk to your health care provider who can help you review your child’s growth. Start a ‘food log’ and keep track of the types and amounts of food your child eats and share that information with your healthcare provider as well.

Join us in June as we blog about how to make mealtime fun rather than a power struggle.

Your child’s eating habits won’t change overnight, but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.

 

 

The Science of Parenting from ISU Extension and Outreach also is available on Twitter and via text message.

 

dealing with pick eaters script

 

 

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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