Words Have Power – Even on the Second Try

We’ve been talking an awful lot about WORDS lately on the blog. We looked at a post from a mom who wished she had used her words differently. We’ve agreed to stop using the words “good” and “bad” to define our parenting. Over the last little while, we’ve been taking a look at four words we can use to describe our parenting that research shows helps lead us toward positive outcomes – Effective, Consistent, Active, and Attentive.

With all of the focus on the words we use, it only feels right to bring it all back together by talking about communication. We saw across these different posts how the way we communicate with our children and ourselves impacts our relationships and well-being. That’s the research part of it, right? Research shows us over and over how important our words and communication are in parenting.

A mother crouches to her young daughter and smiles while her daughter holds a teddy bear.

Now it’s time for us to take a look at our reality. I’ll share a little of my reality recently. I had a sick toddler at home with me, AND I had some serious deadlines I needed to meet. I laid my toddler down for nap and was feeling hopeful for all that I could accomplish in those next two hours… except she woke up and was not going back to sleep. (Mom face palm). I was tired, stressed, and I was feeling like I had used up all of my patience and multi-tasking abilities in the morning. So as my sweet kiddo came down the stairs, my words were exasperated and short. We immediately started to spiral downward – with my daughter teary-eyed from being sick and overtired, and I was stressed and out of energy.

ENTER Stop. Breathe. Talk. … I didn’t get my words right on the first try. I spoke from a place of frustration first. After a few minutes of our downward spiral, I realized I was the one tanking the interaction. So I pulled my girl up in my lap, and after I stopped to catch a breath I talked… I told her I was tired too. I talked about how sleeping is important to starting to feel better when you are sick. And I told her I was sorry for not speaking kindly to her.

Research and reality tell us that our words do have power. My words and actions helped transform my interaction with my toddler from one of frustration to one of bonding. But I want to be transparent that it took me awhile to get there. I didn’t get it right on the first try.

I think that’s a really important message for us parents to share with each other as we think about the power of words – it’s about practice, not perfection. There is room for a little grace. There will still be days when you call yourself a “bad parent” without remembering you have other words that can be more helpful, and there will be moments where you don’t get the words right on the first try during a challenging moment with your child.

Challenging Moments are inevitable in parenting. Luckily we can use our words to help navigate them – even if we don’t always get it right on the first try.

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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Can I Have Your Attention, Please?

A mother is sitting on the seat of a picnic table while her son sits on the tabletop drinking out of a bottle.
Mother sitting with child

We’ve been looking at different ways to reflect on our parenting over our last few posts, which can be found under the “Trends” tab, and today it continues with the final of our four words – ATTENTIVE parenting, which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as “paying attention to your child’s life and observing what goes on.”

Observing children is one of my very favorite things to do. I love watching young children’s smiling eyebrows and wiggly fingers or toes. It seems as if every word, thought, and idea is communicated through those pieces and parts of their small bodies. Teenagers also communicate with us through their rolling eyes, sagging shoulders, and tapping feet.

Paying attention – OOOF! So hard sometimes yet so very important. Admittedly, observing our own children can be difficult. However, if we really took a moment to quietly sit back, watch, and listen, we may be amazed at what our children are truly sharing with us. We may learn that they are too hot or cold and it’s making them squirm and fidget. We may find out that the sounds around them are overwhelming and they are becoming whiny or frustrated. We may discover that they are hungry or thirsty and their aggressive behavior is overshadowing their words.

By taking a moment and making it a priority to PAY ATTENTION to the small signs and signals our children are sharing (the eyes, the fingers, the shoulders), we could potentially begin to avoid some of those meltdowns. In the moment it may seem as if there was ‘no sign or signal,’ but if we had a video camera to go back and show us what we missed, we’d begin to think otherwise.

I’m not suggesting this is easy or will be the one and only magic answer -BUT – it may be another tool to add to your parenting tool box. Fill it with more tips, tricks and techniques as you continue on your parenting journey.

Pay Attention. I encourage you to find a time to just quietly observe the wonder that is your child. You just may find another cool parenting word (Effective, Consistent, Active, Attentive)…AMAZED!

Next week we will conclude this series and reflect on how words, indeed, have power!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

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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Being an Active Parent Can Look Differently for Each Family

We’ve been looking at different ways to reflect on our parenting over our last few posts, and today it continues with a look at active parenting, which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as “participating in your child’s life.”

Boy wearing a chef's hat measures flour while baking with his father in the kitchen.

This one is pretty broad, right? Just participating… that seems simple. And yet, how each of us might define participation looks so different! Some parents may say you are an active parent if you see your child every day. Others might say it’s being available for big moments like ball games and concerts. Some might say it’s more about being present for the little moments like dinner time and bed time.

Some of these definitions may leave out certain parents – like parents who work a night shift, so they may not be there for evening meal and bedtime, or parents who live separately and may not see their child every day. Does this mean those parents cannot be active in their child’s life? The answer – NO.

Every family is different. We each have kids with unique temperaments, our family structures may vary, and our schedules may look different. I think that’s part of the beauty of this broad definition of active parenting: participation can look differently for each parent and each family!

It ultimately comes down to the experience of your specific child. Does your child feel like you are available to them? Do they know that you want to be a part of their life? Do you have a plan for maintaining ongoing contact with them?

For some parents, this aspect of being an active parent may feel very obvious, while others have to give more thought and creativity to ensuring their participation in their children’s lives. Whichever spot you may fall into, know that your efforts to be active and available to your child are worthwhile and are an important aspect of developing your relationship! Keep up the good work!

Come back in our next post to explore the concept of being an attentive parent!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

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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“Do as I say, not as I do”… and Other Challenges in Consistency

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about tossing out the ideas of “good parents” and “bad parents” and replacing them with some new words — Effective, Consistent, Active, Attentive.

A father, mother, and son are sitting on a couch having a conversation.

It comes from a place of good intention, right? We want our kids to develop healthy eating habits, even if we maybe don’t always have great habits ourselves. Or maybe we are trying to teach our child not to interrupt, but then catch ourselves interrupting them when they talk to us. Ultimately, if we feel the urge to tell our child “Do as I say, not as I do,” it might be a sign that we are struggling to be consistent in our words and actions.

This week, let’s take a closer look at consistent parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.” …Anyone else looking around the room all guilty when they read that definition, or is that just me?

Even if our inconsistencies are unintentional, we can see how our actions speak louder than our words when it comes to our kids. For example, we have been working on teaching our almost three-year-old to speak kindly to others (without the sass). It’s something we offer reminders and redo’s on everyday to practice. The other night at supper my daughter turned to my husband and said, “You are bothering me. Go away.” I went to help her rephrase it to something more like, “Dad, I need some space,” and noticed my husband giving me a look. Then he said, “you know she learned that from you, right?”.

GUILTY!

I often playfully tell my husband he is bothering me when he teases me or says something that’s realistic that I don’t want to hear. The fact that I was telling my toddler not to speak to others that way wasn’t getting very far when I was modeling that behavior myself! I had to take the moment to “fess up” that I do say that sometimes, and that it’s not a nice way to talk to Dad. I had to acknowledge to my child (and myself) that maybe I wasn’t being the most consistent in my words and actions on this particular front.

So I’m still working on being consistent in my words and actions across different fronts with my parenting. It is requiring some honesty and humility on my part, but I know consistency also helps me work toward being a more effective parent! It’s alright if we don’t get it perfect every time. We can all work together to strive to be more consistent in our words and actions with our children! Join us at Science of Parenting for the journey!

Come back next time to learn more about being an active parent, regardless of your family situation!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

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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“How Can I Get my Kid to Listen?” and other aspects of Effective Parenting

In our last few posts we’ve been talking about how we talk about ourselves and parents. We’ve agreed that using the terms “good” and “bad” isn’t very helpful, and in our last post we looked at four words we can use instead that are based on aspects of parenting that research has shown are important.

The first of those four words is EFFECTIVE parenting – which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development defines as when “your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to”. This sounds pretty straightforward, right? The things I try to get my child to do is what they actually do. Wait…. maybe that only sounds easy to someone who has never raised a toddler or had a tough conversation with a hormonal teenager!

For most of us parents, we have had some great moments where we are really pleased with how effectively we got our child to listen and other times where we feel like throwing our hands in the air. At our house, my recent challenge was getting our toddler to stay in bed at night. We tried talking about why sleep is important, setting some expectations and consequences, and even planning a small reward system. NONE of it was working!

Mom is helping daughter with math homework, and they are high-fiving for a successful answer.

I found myself totally slipping into labeling myself as a “bad mom” because we could not get it figured out. However, calling myself a bad mom was not helping me find a solution – in fact all it really did was make me feel worse about an already challenging situation! So I had to change my frame of mind. Instead of saying “I’m bad at this,” I had to find a way to look at the problem that gave me a way to seek a solution. I realized this was really a challenge in being EFFECTIVE, because I was struggling to find a way to influence my child the way I was hoping to.

Sometimes the journey toward being an effective parent, or influencing your child the way you hope to, takes some thought and trial and error. Whether it’s trying to get a toddler to stay in bed, getting your teen to do their chores, making sure your child is kind to others, or whatever else,  considering if we are being effective (rather than good or bad) gives us a concrete way to find some solutions!

After a few more ideas, we did find a solution that works for our family and our child’s temperament. An important step in getting there for me was realizing that I wasn’t being a bad parent, but that I was working toward being more effective, and that in order to do so, I had to keep looking for an idea that worked for us.

Come back next time to explore the idea of consistent parenting!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

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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Let’s Stop Calling Ourselves “Good” or “Bad” Parents, Instead Let’s Say…

In our last post, “Am I a Good Parent?” we talked about how calling ourselves a “good parent” or a “bad parent” isn’t very helpful. For one thing, it doesn’t give us anything concrete to decide if we are “good” or “bad”. Plus, this way of thinking can create unnecessary guilt or shame related to our parenting. So today, we want to look at a trustworthy parenting model that gives us a different way to reflect on our parenting!

This model is pretty simple. With just four words, we can describe our parenting WITHOUT using “good” or “bad,” and have concrete ideas about what aspects of parenting are important! The four words are:

– Effective – Consistent – Active – Attentive –

Each of these introduce aspects of parenting that research has shown helps raise great kids! But what do they mean??

  • EFFECTIVE PARENTING: Your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to.
  • CONSISTENT PARENTING: You follow similar principles or practices in your words and actions.
  • ACTIVE PARENTING: You participate in your child’s life.
  • ATTENTIVE PARENTING: You pay attention to your child’s life and observe what goes on.
A mother and daughter laying on a bed on their stomachs looking at one another.

Next time you are tempted to label yourself as a “bad mom” or sarcastically call yourself “dad-of-the-year,” consider which of these aspects of parenting you are wishing you had done differently. Maybe you’ll discover that you actually ARE doing pretty well across these important aspects of parenting, and you can give yourself a pat on the back instead of a face palm.

Come back for our next series of posts where we will dive into each of these aspects of parenting a big deeper!

Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/documents/adventures_in_parenting_rev.pdf

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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“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.

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Summer Fun with the Family!

Family On Bicycle Ride In Countryside Smiling At CameraAs the summer unfolds and the weather warms I am reminded that our physical health can be a concern! We need to remember to drink plenty of fluids when hot humid days arrive! We need to stop and take a break when we feel exhausted!

As a family, you may have activity plans that include running, hiking, canoeing and lots of physical activity. Keeping kids moving is pretty important these days because most of us, if we were to admit, just don’t get enough physical activity! According to the Center for Disease Control, “ Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help:
• Control your weight
• Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
• Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes
• Reduce your risk of some cancers
• Strengthen your bones and muscles
• Improve your mental health and mood
• Improve your ability to do daily activities
• Increase your chances of living longer

As a parent you may wonder how you can influence your child’s participation in activities that will increase their physical mobility. The Center for Disease Control recommends the following:

• Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself.
• Make physical activity part of your family’s daily routine by taking family walks or playing active games together.
• Give your children equipment that encourages physical activity.
• Take young people to places where they can be active, such as public parks, community baseball fields or basketball courts.
• Be positive about the physical activities in which your child participates and encourage them to be interested in new activities.
• Make physical activity fun. Fun activities can be anything your child enjoys, either structured or non-structured. Activities can range from team sports or individual sports to recreational activities such as walking, running, skating, bicycling, swimming, playground activities or free-time play.
• Instead of watching television after dinner, encourage your child to find fun activities to do on their own or with friends and family, such as walking, playing chase or riding bikes.

Parents may be interested to know that as youth continue to stay active they reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and increase their health and stamina! Check out the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart Eat Smart website for delicious, healthy recipes and videos that will give you many ideas that your family will enjoy! Stay active and enjoy the summer!

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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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.

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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.

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E-Cigarettes

About a month ago, a colleague of ours wrote a piece on the costs of smoking e-cigarettes. We decided we wanted to highlight her words were worth sharing over here at The Science of Parenting as well. Please welcome our guest blogger, Joyce Lash, Human Science Specialist in Family Finance.

March 5, 2019. Money Tips Blog: E-Cigarettes

It’s strange to hear marketing promoting the use of e-cigarettes. Legislation has restricted  campaigns promoting tobacco products for many years.  A frequently-used e-cig marketing approach targets smokers who feel their habit has forced them into self-imposed  isolation to hide their habit or protect others from second hand exposure.  Web sites declare the product is for individuals who already smoke, offering them a safer alternative.

Nicotine is an addictive substance and e-cigarette ads or commercials clearly state its presence. E-cigarette use often leads to use of tobacco products. Among individuals who smoke, nine out of ten started as teens.

A 2016 report by the Surgeon Generals Office pointed to data indicating a rapid increase in the use of e-cigarettes (also known as “vaping”) by teens and young adults.  In research designed to measure whether youth understand the risks, the findings clearly indicate that teens and young adults view e-cigarettes as safe. Flavor options are attractive, and natural curiosity are reasons given to try e-cigarettes.

Tobacco product use in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for adolescents. Lifelong addiction is costly, not only in health terms, but also in financial terms. E-cigarette pods, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, cost $4-$5. The device to use the pods is around $35.  When a substance is addictive, as e-cigarettes are, users will typically increase consumption over time. This is a bonus for the companies selling the products. Even with low use (2 pods a week), the habit will cost $500 a year.

Running a calculation of what $500 a year could become if it was saved provides an argument against vaping.  A modest $50 deposited monthly into an account earning 3% a year with annual compounding (I’m being intentionally conservative here…) from the age of 16 until age 65 would result in  cash assets of $65,000.  Unfortunately it’s hard to make this example exotic enough to hook individuals on saving instead of vaping.

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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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.

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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.

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Can we talk?

father son talking and walking
Father and son in public park

Talking. Conversation. Communication. I have been having some thoughts on those three words recently, so I thought I might come here to share them with you. This may take several posts but I don’t think I’m the only one with these thoughts.

Talking. Let’s start with the obvious one. And let’s just go ahead and start at the top with the big kids. I’m talking about you and me. The adults.

Talk. We talk out loud. We talk with our hands and body language. We even talk inside of our head where no one else can hear. Sometimes as a parent don’t you feel like you are constantly talking and no one is listening? I can’t help but wonder however, if the reason we think no one hears us is because the talk from our mouth isn’t matching the talk from our body language or even the talk inside our head?

     We say out loud, “Stop IT!”

     Inside of our head we hear “Stop jumping on the furniture”.

     However, our body language shows that we aren’t really interested because we are looking at our phone.

We, in fact, are talking, but no one is listening. Could it possibly be that we are talking but not truly communicating? When we talk are we truly conveying the message we desire.

Example: Looking at my phone I say to the child, “Stop IT!” OR I turn and look at the child and say, “Stop jumping on the furniture and go jump outside”. It seems obvious and pretty clear cut that the second option actually conveys what we want to say. So simple, yet.

I actually had this exact scenario happen in my grown up life with another adult. I was the one saying “Stop IT”. The other adult looked at me and said “Stop what?”. I was stunned. Wasn’t it obvious what I was asking? Actually, no, it wasn’t obvious to anyone but me. Since that time I have found myself constantly recognizing and identifying what I call the ‘Stop IT’ syndrome. Some type of talking that is too vague to the listener but completely obvious to the talker. In the end however, no one is actually communicating.

So how do we remedy this ‘Stop IT’ syndrome? It’s up to us the adult to take the time to be clear about our expectations. Why are we making the request? “I don’t want the furniture to break or have you get hurt.” What is the desired outcome and what is it we what to see instead? “I don’t want you to jump on the furniture, please go jump outside”.

Talking. It seems simple but actually takes some energy and thought to have others hear what we say.

Check out our Guidance by Age 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.

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