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Gift Giving at the Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many of us find ourselves looking at the calendar and making checklists, of things that require our attention, like baking; cleaning; holiday school programs, and gift shopping.

If you are someone who has a list of people that you shop for at the holidays, then this time of year is a busy one for you. Depending on who you are shopping for, the gift buying experience can be stressful. You may wonder if you have saved enough money to buy all the items on your gift giving list. You may also be filled with stress trying to find all the requested gifts your children seem to have this time of year.

Research reported in the Journal of Consumer Research has found that for many, it’s better to provide an experience, than just a gift itself. In fact, the research suggested that these experiences may in fact strengthen relationships between people! During the holiday season, instead of giving gifts that may need to purchased, wrapped and delivered, maybe we can re-think our gift giving strategy. What if we were to give a skill or a helping hand to someone we care for?

Could we offer our TIME, to wrap someone’s holiday gifts? Could we offer to address Christmas cards? Could we offer to go to the grocery store or shopping mall and shop alongside someone who may need extra time or attention? Consider spending a day at the senior center and visiting and listening to the stories of the residents. These are the priceless gifts of attention that so many of us can give, and others will certainly appreciate.

Don’t forget, caregiving can be the special gift you give to your family this season. Focus on helping your family members eat healthy; get plenty of sleep and exercise during the holidays! The caregiving we show to one another today will be repeated for the good of all for years to come. Stay in touch with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach your Human Sciences Specialists for information on family finances; nutrition and wellness and caregiving. Happy Holidays!

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!

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Halloween Snacking

It is that time of year, you know, the time when families hunt for the perfect Halloween costume, or the best treat to distribute next week! Because many families have a desire to eat more healthy, they may be making better decisions about the “treats” they provide, as costume clad children knock on the door. Let me share a few ideas Science of Parenting contributor Rebecca Brotzman, RD, LDN made several years ago, that would certainly be helpful today too!

Do not make the focus entirely on candy. Distract your kids with other activities like making masks, decorating the house with cobwebs, bobbing for apples, going to corn mazes and/or haunted houses.

2.Check stores, online, and in newspapers for coupons. Most major stores will have specials in their circulars the week before Halloween as well. When you combine coupons and specials you can save even more.

3.Think creatively. You do not HAVE to give out candy, and the alternatives can be cheaper and healthier. For example: one bag of 144 spider rings costs about $5.00, or a package of 100 glow sticks costs about $9.00. Both are healthier alternatives, and who doesn’t love glow sticks or spider rings!?

4.Compare prices before you buy. Look at the unit count in the bag of candy before you buy it. Sometimes a 14 unit count bag costs the same as a 21 unit count bag.

When the prices are the same, it is easy to see which bag has a better value (just check the unit count), but you can ALWAYS figure out the value of a purchase by figuring out the unit price (divide the price by the unit count).

5.Do not be afraid to run out of candy. Some people buy way too much and then end up with all that candy left over plus what their kids bring home!

6.Have some control over candy consumption. Do not be too strict (let your kids enjoy the holiday), but have some kind of plan in place to control their intake of candy.

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!

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New Blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, shares research and reality

Hello hello! I’m Mackenzie, and I’m so excited to be joining the Science of Parenting blog team! A little about me – I have an infant daughter, I enjoy cooking from scratch, and I’m a total geek for research on the interaction of parents and children (even studied it in college)! These three facts about me actually all roll together into one of my biggest passions – learning about the phenomenon of how parents get the opportunity to help raise new adults “from scratch”!

In my education, I’ve learned a lot about parenting styles, stages of child development, strategies for guidance and discipline, etc. So when I thought about becoming a parent, I had big plans. Oh boy, I had all kinds of plans! I said things to myself like “I will do things this way” and “I would never do that” … Then I held my tiny infant in my arms, and suddenly everything changed. She came into the world with her own temperament, her own challenges, her own quirks. I found out that my plans weren’t panning out how I thought- no matter how much effort I put into them! “What now?”, I asked myself, “I know that research suggests this is the best way to do this, but my plans aren’t working!”

Over a few months, I’ve been able to get some clarity on what I like to refer to as “balancing research and reality”. The research suggested that _______ is the most successful strategy, but I had to balance that information with what my reality was. With certain things, the research-suggested strategy just wasn’t working for us… But Instead of feeling terribly guilty about it, I’ve come to find a level of acceptance. I realized that I wasn’t a failure, but rather a parent who made an educated decision about what was best for my family. In certain circumstances, it was better for my family to change the way we were doing things than to continue on a path that wasn’t working for us. And because I had learned about the research, I was able to make an INFORMED decision for MY FAMILY.

That’s the perspective I hope to bring with me to the blog: understanding that research is here to empower us to be able to make informed decisions about what is in the best interest of our families. So no parent-shaming here. No condescending words to belittle anyone’s parenting. No telling you that there is only one way to do it. Instead, we will work to give you access to information so that you can decide what is best for your family.

So yes, I’m truly excited to be joining the Science of Parenting team, because I just can’t think of a better parent-empowering movement to get behind.

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.

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Gratitude Diaries

Little girl looking at her mother

Little girl looking at her mother

I’m reading the Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and loved the chapter on Raising Grateful Kids.  Her stories about UN-grateful preteens and young adults who resented the sense of obligation that comes with “thanking” their parents made me think about how we approach gratitude with our kids.  Do we demand that they be grateful for all we do for them?

 

Modeling appreciation is the best way to teach gratitude.  How often does our family hear us express gratitude for our job or coworkers? For the checker at the grocery store? For access to safe, nutritious food? For the privilege of transportation to get where we need and want to go? When was the last time your kids heard YOU say thanks to their other parent for something that just gets done at home? Have your kids seen YOU handwrite a thank you note to a friend for taking time to have lunch together? or bringing in the garbage cans that blew down the street?  Appreciating the small things keeps us from taking things for granted. Learn more ways to raise grateful kids in this video Teach your kids the gift of giving.

My granddaughter signs ‘Thank you’ to her Papa when he gets her a drink of water.  My heart swells when I see her learn this simple act of gratitude.  It starts early and extends throughout our life.  I started using the Five Minute Gratitude Journal to keep me focused on looking on the bright side of life.

Thank someone this week for who they are, or what they did, or that they are in your life. . .  and tell us what happened to YOUR heart. To their attitude. To the relationship.

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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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 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.

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Kindness is learned by feeling kindness

friendsAs I was reading about kindness I became fascinated by the brain research. I sat there thinking “Well of course, the brain is in charge of our feelings. Why wouldn’t it be the center of this conversation?”.

Our brains are in charge of our emotions and our actions. Our brains take the input we receive from others. Process the information. Tell us how to emotionally respond. And our actions become the response. Makes perfect sense. The brain is in charge of kindness.

And then I read this, “our brain learns best about kindness when it FEELS kindness”. There is was.

How should I teach my children about kindness?  Help them FEEL kindness.

Children learn kindness when they ‘feel’ what its like to make someone else smile. And their brain learns.

They learn about kindness when they share with others, when they comfort others, when they give to others. And their brain learns.

Suddenly writing this blog topic wasn’t rocket science, but is was brain science. It was simply thinking about all of the ways that children can be kind to others and understanding that while they do this – their brain learns.

 

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.

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Spoiling Grandkids

This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.

were grandparnetsI had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle.  Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.

Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.

  1. Gift of Talent/Skills We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand babyPlay together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
  2. Gift of Words Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
  3. Gift of Time Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together  Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
  4. Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object.  Create together – Choose toys  and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
  5. Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.

YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!

 

 

 

Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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My favorite temperament type

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, 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.

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I’d like to customize my order please

…that’s 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, 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.

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Was I too late?

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.

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

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.

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A treasure hunt vacation? SIGN ME UP!

SandraGeocachingGeocaching: A Great Family Activity

Geocaching is a world-wide treasure hunt where you electronically use longitude and latitude to locate the “loot.” It is a great low-cost family activity. It is easy to catch on to and you can do it anywhere you are.

My adult son introduced me to the game. We used his handheld GPS unit and went searching in a nearby park. What we found was a camouflaged box full of trinkets. He explained we could take a trinket, but if we did we were to leave another of at least equal value. We signed the log that was inside the box and carefully put it back where we found it. Then we went along our merry way as if nothing had happened.

How did he know that the box was there? He went online to geocaching.com and searched near his home for a cache. He plugged the coordinates into his GPS and we left the house. When we were back to the house, he went online to log the find.

Now, the electronic treasure hunt is as easy as getting an app on your smartphone. You simply search near where you are, choose the level of difficulty and terrain you feel appropriate, and then off you go geocaching.

Since the time with my son, I have logged caches in several states. I have also introduced geocaching to several friends, relatives and colleagues. My 4 year old grandson and I have gone hunting together. We searched for one that was easy enough to get to and to find. He delighted to find the treasure! And no one saw us – which is a trick sometimes! You see, the caches are secret so you don’t want anyone to know what you are doing.

I’ve enjoyed traipsing stealthily all over the U.S. It is a quick activity to stretch your legs or get children out to run a bit when the family stops for a break on a trip. Or plan a picnic and day out exploring wherever you are. Hint: many geocaches can be found at safe places like rest areas, parks and cemeteries.

Maybe you’ll find a cache that I have hidden. What will be inside it?

To learn more about the rules and courtesies of the game, and to search near you, visit geocaching.com.

Guest Blogger, Sandra McKinnon

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.

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Who’s more anxious? Them or me?

camp2Last summer when my youngest daughter was almost 9 years old she went to her first over night camp (for three whole days and two nights!). I’ll admit I was anxious. She had only stayed with close friends and family members up to that point. It was really important that I not show her my level anxiety because the reality was that I was probably more anxious than her. Luckily, the camp must have dealt with anxious moms before. Camp leaders told us to write letters ahead of time and they would hand deliver them to the kids each day. That helped me. I felt like at least these short daily written messages were a way my daughter could connect with me, even though I wasn’t personally be able to connect with her. At the end of the three days I was thinking “I’m never letting her leave for that long again!” I pulled into the camp, she came running and giggling with all her new friends saying “I’m coming back next summer! And guess what? I’ll be old enough to stay for a WEEK!!” (I’ve been buying antacids on sale all year so I’m stocked up and ready!)

How have you encouraged your child to join in camp type activities knowing that you will be anxious without them? What tips do you have that worked to help ease the transition for both parent and child?

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.

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Remember when…

I remember every summer camp experience I had. I only had a few but I REMEMBER! There were pivotal things that happened at each one. They shaped me. They were so important to me that as an adult I have attended a camp with my children for the last 5 years in a row. Not so much to create an experience for them, but to create experiences for all of the children attending. I LOVE CAMP! Can you hear me practically dancing on the keyboard as I type? You should have seen/heard me trying to speak slower for the podcast! My excitement over the possibilities that children have during camp experiences knows no boundaries. I’m even rambling now. So many organizations understand the importance of camp that they have scholarships, grants and monetary support systems to ensure children have opportunities.

Share your camp experiences with us. And if you really want to make a difference – find a camp near you and help a child enjoy it!

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.

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Spiritual Development

Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it.  It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.

How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.

What is Spirituality?

delighting in all things

being absorbed in the present moment

not to attached to ‘self’ and

eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’

searching for meaning

discovering purpose

open to more?

Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.

– Rabbi Hugo Gryn

What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?

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.

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Let’s Fight Fair

Conflict between human beings happens. It happens between adults, between children and even between adults and children. So how do we learn to fight fair?

An article I found from the University of Texas at Austin gives some great ideas on how to have conflict in a ‘fair’ way.

Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Deal with only one issue at a time: Stay focused on only one topic. Focus on that one issue until you have resolved it agree to disagree. Then move to the next issue.
  • Avoid accusations: Like Donna talked about last week, use the ‘I messages’ and talk about how it makes you feel. Refrain from using the word ‘you’ as much as possible.
  • Avoid clamming up: Get the issue out. When you stop communicating about what the issue is it can’t possibly be resolved.  Shutting down or becoming silent doesn’t make the issue go away. Keep talking.  If you need to take a break, do so but commit to coming back and finishing the conversation.

For more suggestions read the whole article from the University of Texas at Austin.

Share your ‘fighting fair’ techniques with us 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.

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