All About Sleep

New parents know the importance of schedules for their newborn. In fact, the literature supports parents helping their children develop patterns of sleep, feeding, and awake times in order to thrive as newborns. However, we know that not all children are born with the same temperament. In fact, in the same family, children may have completely opposite dispositions and needs for stimulation, sleep, and attention.  

Parents who have children that struggle to sleep may blame themselves for their child’s inability to quiet or sleep. They may question their own behaviors as a parent and try everything to help their child learn to sleep. They may also feel pressure from extended family members who try to offer support and guidance, and nothing seems to help the newborn quiet or rest peacefully. Parents who struggle to find the balance of sleep and awake time for their children not only feel judged, but also can perceive they are “bad” parents because they don’t seem to be able to get it all figured out. The truth is, research reveals these parents are not alone, and are not at all “bad parents”, simply parents who could use additional information about supporting their very active little one. Some children are just more attentive, awake longer hours during the day, or are more active, and this can cause pressure on parents who themselves are tired and need a few moments of rest. 

Researcher Macall Gordon has made a career of helping parents learn about sleep and how it may impact children and their behavior. 

Macall visits with our Science of Parenting team to discuss her years of research on sleep and children. She offers some ideas that may be useful for parents who have the child that has FOMO – also known as “fear of missing out”.  She wants parents to know they are not alone.  

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Slow Down

When both children and adults experience some type of stress, it often ends with an emotional outburst – sometimes from kids, and sometimes from parents, too. When it comes to these emotional meltdowns, who has the control – parents or kids? To find that answer, let’s look at a little research on brain development.

Our brains are an important organ in the development of regulating our emotions, feelings, and decisions. In fact, the human brain is not fully developed until we are into our early 20’s. This means that the earliest, most primitive portions of the brain are more readily activated than other parts of our brain – those responsible for helping us to make good decisions about how best to express our emotions.

Babies communicate their needs through emotion all the time. If we hear a baby cry, we anticipate the need may mean hunger, tiredness, or even a diaper change is in order. As we age, our verbal skills allow for us to tell others what we need. And finally, when we have the entire brain working, we can use communication along with other coping skills to manage our ever-increasing emotions. Ultimately, this means that our kids don’t have the emotional self-control skills that parents do. Now this may be hard to hear, but as the adults in the situation, that means we have to take control of our emotions.

Sometimes parents need help calming down, too. The need to slow down and even breathe, then talk, allows us to re-regulate. When we feel overwhelmed with emotion, the decisions we make in those moments may not be as clear or satisfactory, as when we have given ourselves permission to step back and take some time to think. Our body needs time to get re-regulated after a big emotional outburst.

On the podcast this week, we discuss the importance of self-regulation (or emotional self-control), and reveal some research highlighting the long-term benefits of regulatory self-control.

All of us have big feelings from time to time. It is during those times that we may need to use our STOP, BREATHE, TALK approach. Parents and kids, it is helpful to slow down when you feel those big emotions. Let your body get regulated and then reach back out to one another and communicate!

You can subscribe to us on any podcasting app to tune in to our weekly episode, or keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you stay caught up. Our next time LIVE on Facebook will be April 30 at 12:15 p.m.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Take a Break and Take a Breath

Were you able to join us for the very first LIVE podcast from The Science of Parenting on Thursday?! We talked a little more in-depth into our favorite parenting strategy – Stop. Breathe. Talk. If you are unfamiliar with this strategy, we have several blog posts you can look at:

As you can tell, we think taking the time to stop, take a breath, and think about how you want to proceed before you talk, is a great strategy for intentional parenting! But does the research back it up? YES – in fact, a 2014 study from Hurrell, Hudson, and Schneiring has demonstrated that parental reactions to children’s emotions play a role in the development of children’s emotional regulation.

In other words, the way WE, as parents, react and interact with our child during a heated or challenging moment plays an important role in our children’s emotional development. What we model for them in terms of how we handle our own emotions affects how they will learn to handle their own big feelings.

Now there are plenty of times when my own “big feelings” get ahead of me in a tough moment. I do not get it right every time! But I tend to do better when I remember to Stop. Breathe. Talk. It just gives me the chance to get out of my own emotions and slow down. The breath helps reset my brain so I can think a little more clearly. And then, after I’ve calmed down a little, I can speak to my child in a way that I intend to.

Learn more about our Stop. Breathe. Talk. strategy by watching or listening to the recording of our Live broadcast!

You can subscribe to us on any podcasting app to tune in to our weekly episodes, or keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you stay caught up.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

It’s Not About Being Perfect

As you might know, The Science of Parenting loves to look at research and reality. We believe parents should have access to trustworthy information, and they can use that information to make decisions about what’s best for their unique family. Where the challenges sometimes come in is actually FINDING that research-based information. Who can you trust to give you unbiased information?

Research by Bernhardt & Felter confirms that parents consider information gathered from a university or medical professional to be more trustworthy than commercial sites, and we tend to agree. However, this same study mentions that parents are using commercial sites at a high rate! These commercial sites might be blogs or even companies that sell children’s products. So even though we don’t think it’s the most reliable source of information, we are sometimes still going to those places to get information.

Why are parents doing this? If you ask me, I think it’s because often times, those commercial sites are simply easier to find. They often come up on the top of the search engine list. I also think it’s because sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Maybe we looked for information in more trustworthy places and simply couldn’t find any answers. Or sometimes it comes down to needing something – support, advice, information, etc. – because sometimes we feel desperate as parents. Even if it’s not ideal, sometimes SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. No judgment here – I’ve absolutely been in the place where I just need something to help me.

We explore this exact topic in our second episode of The Science of Parenting podcast, and we also share four strategies to help you find trustworthy information!

You can subscribe to us on any podcasting app to tune in to our weekly episode, or keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you stay caught up. And don’t forget to join us LIVE on Facebook on March 26 at 12:15 P.M. as we talk about our favorite strategy – Stop. Breathe. Talk!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

Dive Into All Things Parenting

Did you see it?!

We launched our new podcast! If you’ve been following The Science of Parenting for awhile, you know that we like to look at things with a lens of R&R –and while we think rest and relaxation is important, we are talking about RESEARCH and REALITY. And that’s exactly what our podcast focuses on: looking at parenting research and exploring how it’s been relevant to our own family realities.

We think parents like you should be able to find trustworthy information when you want it. Research conducted by Zero to Three (2016) tells us that parents need and want information and support. The report says found “80% of parents work to be better parents, and 69% of parents say if they knew more parenting strategies, they would use them. Despite this motivation, however, almost half of parents say they aren’t getting the support they need during times of stress.”

The Science of Parenting team wants to help you find the support they need in times that you need it! This is why we put together a resource website, write blogs, and now have a podcast: we are working to give you easier access to research-based, trustworthy information that you can use to make decisions for your own family.

We are also so excited that podcasting gives us an opportunity to share a little bit more of our own REALITY as parents with all of you! So join us on this new adventure to help get trustworthy, non-judgmental parenting information in your hands (and ears).

You can subscribe to us on any podcasting app to tune in to our weekly episodes, or keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you stay caught up. And don’t forget to join us LIVE on Facebook on March 26 at 12:15 P.M. as we talk about our favorite strategy – Stop. Breathe. Talk!

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

“Am I a good parent?” – and other ways we reflect on our parenting

Two Children, a boy and a girl, fighting In Front Of their frustrated mother at home.

“Am I good parent?”…“I feel like a bad mom today.”… “Feeling like Dad-of-the-year over here (sarcastically).”

From morning to evening, parents make countless choices throughout the day.

  • The thought process about how to get your child to clean up their room without it becoming an ordeal.
  • The decision whether to “choose this battle” about your child’s clothing choice.
  • The debate about whether to let your child stay up a little later tonight for something fun or stick to the usual curfew or bedtime.
  • The split second reaction either trying to remain calm during a frustrating moment or losing your cool.

Everyday we are faced with an ongoing slew of split-second decisions about how we guide and even just talk to our children. Sometimes at the end of the day as we reflect back on our interactions with our child, we may be have feelings of guilt or defeat. We may look back at the day and think, “I was a bad parent today”.

Today, I want us to really reflect on the way we talk to ourselves about our parenting choices. We often use this idea of a “good” or “bad” parent as the standard, but I want to suggest that these terms really aren’t very helpful for us as parents. Here’s a few reasons:

  • Who or what defines what is a good or bad parent? This is often based on other’s opinions, our feelings, or the way we were raised – but all three of those things are not a helpful or reliable standard.
  • This feeling of good/bad can fluctuate greatly throughout even one day, or even within one moment. For example, maybe you feel like a good parent for making a healthy supper for your family while simultaneously feeling bad because you raised your voice at your child to get out of the kitchen.
  • Finally, using the terms “good” and “bad” really doesn’t give us a chance to reflect on our parenting in a helpful way. If I just say “I was a bad mom today,” it can just build feelings of shame and guilt instead of encouraging me to reflect on what in particular I wish I had done differently.

I want to encourage all of us to stop using the terms “good” and “bad” to describe our parenting. Fortunately, there are several research-based parenting models that give us alternative ways to reflect on our parenting (which we will dive into over the next few weeks). But for now, I encourage you to use this week to give thought to how you reflect on and how you talk to yourself about your parenting. Try to avoid using the terms good and bad. If you are wishing something had gone differently about a particular interaction, choose to reflect more on what you may want to try different next time instead of focusing on the guilt.

Come back for our next post where we will discuss a research-based parenting model that will give you new terms to replace “good” and “bad”.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

More Posts

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedIn

Help Young Children Form Positive Financial Habits

parent and daughter putting coins into piggy bankGuest blogger and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Human Sciences Specialist in Family Finance, Sandra McKinnon shares some compelling information on youth and financial literacy.

Children form financial habits at an early age. Parents and care providers can influence what those habits will be. University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Karen Holden and colleagues found that habits children learn when they are young form the basis for their future behavior. A study from Cambridge University found that children form financial habits by age 7. We may teach our children that a dime is thin and worth 10 cents, but developing financial habits includes more than just recognizing coins. Parents and care providers can help children gain the knowledge and skills they need to develop positive financial habits.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests teaching preschoolers these basic concepts:
You need money to buy things.
You earn money by working.
You may have to wait before you can buy something you want.
There is a difference between things that you want and things that you need.
Other concepts to establish good financial habits include learning about numbers, time and institutions, such as stores, banks or credit unions, and employers. Children also can learn about budgeting, regular saving and shopping strategies; social values, such as gifts, generosity and sense of community; and public goods like the library.

Another way to engage with children is by reading money-related books with children, and providing hands-on learning opportunities. Check out the following titles at your local library:

Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw
The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Just a Piggy Bank by Mercer Mayer
Just Saving My Money by Mercer Mayer
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

The goal is to help children become comfortable with basic tools of how and why financial choices are made. For example, we can encourage pretend play, like a grocery store. Or we can explore careers by playing dress-up or acting out stories. In addition, we can talk about whether spending money on entertainment, for example, is a need or a want.

ISU Extension and Outreach human sciences specialists in family finance offer Preschoolers and Pennies: Read, Talk, Learn and Play, a 2-hour training for child care providers. Providers practice a way of reading with children that gives children an opportunity to become storytellers of books with a money theme. This introduces and reinforces money-related words and concepts in a more meaningful way. Complementary activities throughout the day encourage preschoolers to practice money skills.

Visit the Extension Store for the Allowance Game. Playing this game starts a great discussion on choices and consequences.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family: Family Connections & History

Last week, I gave you some hobbies and activities to try in order to celebrate your family and create #greatchildhoods. Want to dig a little deeper? The next step beyond immediate family activities is family connections and family history. These are the ideas that will help parents connect their children to those who came before them and helped to pave the way. Remembering, celebrating, and reflecting on history is a great way to bond with one another across generations!

Ideas in this category included:Parents reading a book with their daughter

1 – Read a book together
4 – Say “I love you” to one another
8 – Visit a relative
26 – Sing old songs
36 – Take cookies and visit an older neighbor or friend
42 – Look at old family pictures
43 – Tell old family stories
49 – Give everyone a hug
52 – Celebrate your heritage
62 – Watch an old black and white movie
68 – Talk to older persons about their lives
72 – Bury a time capsule
73 – Dream about the future
77 – Start a journal
81 – Begin a wisdom list of quotations, sayings, and advice
82 – Fingerprint family and compare and contrast any similarities or differences
90 – Plan a family feast
91 – Write notes to each other in the family
93 – Give a compliment
100 – Create a special events calendar
101 – Enjoy one another

What other ways have you embraced family connections and embraced your family history?

– Adapted from 101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach –

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

More Posts

101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family: Hobbies & Activities

April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month. The national organization Prevent Child Abuse (PCA) America’s theme this year is “Do more of what you love to create #greatchildhoods,” which I LOVE. It embraces the idea of finding a passion – or finding things you enjoy doing – and using them to spend quality time as a family.

In a recent office cleanout, I happened upon a couple of folders with information from 2000-2002. I think the universe pulled me to them. I swear. Inside this folder I found a handout from 2000 entitled “101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family.”

What a perfect fit! This list appeared to help us find some things we might enjoy doing as a family!

This handout is exactly what it says it is – a list of 101 ideas for your family to be engaged in what I narrowed down to three categories –

  • Hobbies and activities
  • Family connections & History
  • Community Engagement

The first category – hobbies and activities – are fun undertakings, some costing money, some cost-free, and some of the items are ones we’d often consider ‘chores,’ but can be made fun if you’re doing them with family. Personally, I think this would be a fun “to-do” challenge for a family to try to cross off all the activities by the end of the year. Or maybe this list will spark other ideas for a to-do list of your own!

This category contains 59 items, so I’ll stop explaining here and let you explore the ideas for yourself:

Family On Cycle Ride In Countryside Smiling At Camera
Family On Cycle Ride In Countryside Smiling At Camera

3 – Turn off the television
5 – Enjoy a ride in the country
6 – Plant a flower garden
7 – Have a garage sale
9 – Bake cookies
10 – Start a “Once upon a time…”story and everyone add to it
11 – Go to a movie
14 – Visit a local museum
15 – Go on a picnic
16 – Fly a kite
19 – Make a homemade pizza
21 – Attend a local sporting event
22 – Go on a bike ride
24 – Jump in a pile of raked leaves
25 – Do homework together
27 – Clean the garage
28 – Go Horseback riding
29 – Take a hike
30 – Visit the library
31 – Play leap frog
33 – Enjoy a concert
34 – Go caroling
35 – Have a banana split party
37 – Go swimming
38 – Play a board game
39 – Roast marshmallows
41 – Experience your farmer’s market
44 – Go to a lake
45 – Lie on your back and watch the stars
7 – Skip up and down your block
50 – Talk about a television program
51 – Plan a concert
54 – Put together a first-aid kit
55 – Blow bubbles
56 – Cook out
57 – Go fishing
58 – Play cards
60 – Go to an airport and watch the planes come and go
61 – Have a scavenger hunt
63 – Gather wildflowers

64 – Splash in the rain
65 – Collect fall leaves
66 – Do your own exercise video
67 – Visit a zoo
69 – Have a band with kitchen pans
71 – Put a puzzle together
74 – Make, repair, paint, or refinish an object that would make your home nicer
75 – Hike on a fitness trail
76 – Watch a sunset
79 – Make a collage with magazine pictures
83 – Rent a movie and eat popcorn
85 – Look under rocks in your yard
86 – Design your holiday and birthday cards
87 – Plan an herb garden
88 – Create a snow sculpture
89 – Go skating
94 – Roll down a hill
95 – Make homemade ice cream
96 – Whistle a song
98 – Draw pictures

Which one are you going to try this week? Look for more ideas on how to connect with your family on our Science of Parenting EVERYDAY PARENTING page!

– Adapted from 101 Ways to Celebrate Your Family, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach –

Mackenzie DeJong

Mackenzie DeJong

Aunt of four unique kiddos. Passionate about figuring how small brains develop, process, and differ. Human Sciences Specialist, Family Life in western Iowa with a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences and Design minor.

More Posts

Are we even communicating?

father son talking
Rearview shot of a father and his son bonding on their porch at home

Talk. Conversation. Communication. My last blogs on talk and conversation led me to communication. Have you ever asked this “Are we even communicating?” Or how about “Is anything I’m saying getting through?” As parents I KNOW you have asked yourself this at least one time.

Communication can almost be a four letter word, right? Every self-help book, leadership seminar, guidance and discipline book – EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE in EVERY part of our life seems to share about the importance of communication. If you’re like me, (please say you’re like me) then I know you have thrown your hands in the air and exclaimed “But it’s TOO hard!”. I’m angry, I’m exhausted, I’m hungry, I’m all these things and frankly I don’t WANT to communicate sometimes.

What do I do? I stomp off to the bathroom. Splash cold water on my face and look up. ARGH. Right then it hits me. That person in the mirror is the adult. I’m the parent. It’s my job to muddle through all the “I don’t want to”’s and make the communication happen. Me. It’s up to me. I need to talk, converse and communicate. All three.

The definition of communication has these words: exchanging, sending and receiving. This implies that in communication you will be the recipient of some type of information. Therefore, you will need to listen in order to receive it.

I freely admit, there are times when my children try to converse with me and I am not listening. I may be looking at my phone, writing a blog (oops) or watching tv. My children don’t look at my schedule and say “Oh I think I’ll have a conversation with mom at 5:17 right in between work and exercise.” They pick the moment that THEY are ready to converse. 7:28 a.m. (in the rush of school prep) or 11:26 a.m. (their lunch break but not mine) or even 10:06 p.m. (after my phone is on silent but their college studying is just beginning). Sometimes I remember to physically or figuratively splash the cold water and engage in the conversation. Other times, my child may have to say “mom did you hear me?”.

No parent is perfect.

There are going to be missed opportunities to have conversations with our children. However, no matter the age of the child, when they have something to say, and we the adult take a moment to converse, the more opportunities we will continue to have as they grow.

Additional resources can be found here.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, 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.

More Posts

We need to have a conversation

Shot of a mother and daughter at home
Shot of a mother and daughter at home

Talk. Conversation. Communication. My last blog hinted that I had some things to say about these three words. We started with Talk. Now we need to have a conversation.

Sometimes as adults we struggle when it comes to having a big conversation with our children. Do we tell our children the bad news? Should we sit down with them and share about the scary situation miles away? Do we explain in depth about our families change of plans? Often times we choose what I call the ‘Just say nothing at all and see if they ask’ option. C’mon you know that option too!

I also know that plan has backfired on me many times when my children start the big conversation at a random time when I’m not prepared and often when others are in ear shot and are suddenly also waiting to hear what I have to say. “Momma? Just how DID my brother get out of your tummy?” or “Jessica told me that my cat didn’t go live at the farm but that daddy took it to the vet to die.” or how about “When the school shooter bursts through the doors at our school we are supposed to hit them with our books”. Yeah THOSE conversations. The ones that you need to have note cards and a glass of water to get through.

Admittedly these conversations are difficult. Tough to get through. And yet may I suggest vitally important to creating and maintaining a healthy relationship with your child. Tackling the big topics together (yes, with note cards and a glass of water if needed) shows your children that you are interested in both their questions and their concerns. They likely have both. There is no better way to show children that you are there for them when you tackle their big questions and concerns together.

So what stops us? Often it could be as simple as us not feeling like we have all the answers. Or feeling unsure of how to even start the conversation. Guess what? That’s what the note cards are for. The water is for dry mouth. It is always alright for us to use notes, consult with others or to even say “I actually don’t know”. Having a conversation doesn’t mean that we have to know everything before starting. Sometimes we can learn along the way as we go through the process of conversing.

Big Conversations. Scary at times? Yes. Important to a healthy relationship with your child? Absolutely.

Find more resources here.

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, 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.

More Posts

Help we are all inside-TOGETHER! Stop. Breathe. Talk.

oP Stop. Breathe. Talk.

Those of us here at the Science of Parenting are snuggled deep in our blankets and sweaters. Realizing that most of you probably were too, we decided that it might be a good time to revisit the idea of Stop. Breathe. Talk. With the long cold spell and the possibility of cancelled events and schools there may be a multitude of people inhabiting enclosed spaces and perhaps even getting on each other’s nerves. Full disclosure my children are all at home and currently not speaking to each other for this very reason. I decided that not only could I implement Stop. Breathe. Talk. myself (model it for my children), but I could also actually TEACH them the technique. I realize that yes, my children are teens and are better able to understand and logically (sort of) think through the process, but honestly even when they were younger I utilized the technique as well. It just didn’t have the NAME then. It is always OK to help a child at any age learn to stop and take a deep breathe to help calm them down.

 

Stop. Actively recognizing that the situation or current moment has to change. This is a conscious decision to change the direction of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. We just plain recognize that something right this second has to change. And it starts with us.

Breathe. Literally showing them the biggest deepest breathe you can (because they need to SEE you do it) can slow their heart rate (and yours) in a way that can begin to cool down the intense moments.

Talk. Finding and using the calm, cool, collected voice also helps to reduce the tension in the shoulders and jaw allowing the opportunity for our face to show a sense of peace.

Guidance and discipline, when intentionally planned in thought and action, can be effective for your family. Remember to look through our resources on the science of website parenting to see how you can be purposeful with your child. Also check out our resources for parenting teens. And in the meantime, STAY SAFE AND WARM!

 

 

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, 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.

More Posts

The Language of Money

Parents reading a book with their daughterAs we continue our conversation with Human Sciences Family Finance Specialist Mary Weinand, she reminds us how important financial literacy is and even recommends a few children’s books.

I believe financial literacy is like any other language and like any other language we need to hear it often to understand it. Young children learn best by observing and mimicking adults. Our children may not understand the concept of credit, money, or savings but they are very good observers and they learn from us. This process is called financial socialization and research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau indicates that children form personal financial habits as early as preschool and these attitudes often carry into adulthood.

So how can we help our children learn appropriate financial behaviors?

Young children may not know anything about banks, credit cards, or money. But, they are very good observers. They have constant exposure to their parents and a desire to mimic their behavior, or the behaviors of the community around them. Research by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and others indicate that the personal traits, habits, and behaviors that lead to financial well-being in adulthood start to form as early as preschool.

Children as young as three begin to demonstrate self-regulations, persistence, and focus. They can use these qualities when using and managing limited resources like time, money, treats, or belongings. They have begun to develop basic values and attitudes around saving, consuming and early numeracy skills.

Parents are often the biggest and most positive influence of the financial socialization of their children. They can help their children by providing opportunities to learn and interact with money. Children learn important money lessons simply by watching parents earn, spend, save, share and borrow. Have children create shopping lists and help them to comparison shop and select grocery items. Include children in family financial decisions, planning, and saving for goals such as vacation and college education. And, model positive financial behaviors during everyday routines, such as comparing prices and products, and sticking to a shopping list. You don’t have to have a lot of money, in fact children often learn best when choices are limited and they can observe the difference between needs and wants.

Another method to introduce children to the topic of money is through books. It is often easier to be more objective when talking about book characters and their money decisions. After families talk about what the characters could do, adopting some of the same financial concepts into their own lives is easier too.

And, parents do not need to be money experts. Many of the building blocks for good financial decision making—like patience, planning, and problem-solving—do not require a lot of financial know-how. Some good book choices are; The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble With Money, (Stan & Jan Berenstain), or A Bargain for Frances, (Russell Hoban). These books help express important financial topics such as problem solving, savings, earnings, and self-control.  A great resource for families and libraries is the Money as You Grow Book Club guide which provides several family activities and more reading suggestions.

To learn more about family finance information, contact any ISU Extension and Outreach county office to be connected with a human sciences specialist in family finance.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts

Developing Conflict Resolution Skills

One of the goalKneeling mother and son discussing conflicts many parents have for their children, is to watch them grow into independent young people. Independence, however, comes with its own set of challenges. Children, from a young age, want to do things “on their own”. Watching a crawler, learn to stand, or perhaps even take a step is exciting. Mastery of skills along with independence is achievable, and requires parents to practice some patience!   As young children are learning independence, there is the potential for conflict. Conflicts are a normal part of everyday living. Although we usually think of conflicts as very negative, conflict can also be positive because it can help us grow and develop skill.

The ability to resolve conflicts is learned. Parents, as the first educators of their children can foster an environment of learning and discovery that can include healthy resolution of conflict.  It is true, developing the skill to resolve conflicts comes with age. We have to think in terms of readiness. Two-year-old children may not readily understand how to resolve conflict, but over time, can learn problem-solving techniques. Helping youth to recognize opposing points of view is important; as is learning that actions have consequences.

When children learn that their behavior has direct impact upon others, they learn to manipulate situations in both good and bad ways. Helping children to identify solutions to conflict is important. Parents can model good conflict resolution skills at home, so that children too, learn the skill and can practice it at home, school and into their future.

Talking through conflicts when they occur is a good way to make sure that something positive can come from the situation. Letting children explain how they see the situation and then making sure that all parties listen to all sides is the first step in creating peace in the situation.

Additional information for parenting preschool and elementary children can be accessed here. 

Resources for guiding teens can be accessed here.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

More Posts